University takes unique approach to combating sexual assaults

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SAN MARCOS - California State University San Marcos Police are investigating another sexual assault involving a student. The latest assault was reported earlier this week, after a student came forward and said she was raped last week.

The open investigation is now the third investigation in just a matter of months.

"That one is an on-going investigation,. continues to be an ongoing investigation requiring us to interview witnesses and follow up on any leads that come to our attention," CSUSM Police Chief Robert McManus said.

While police stay focused on their criminal investigation, the university is doing its part to educate students about the importance of gaining consent for any and all sexual activity. Their approach is unique.

"We showcase the video and the program to all incoming first year students," health educator Cathy Nguyen said when she described the 'Consent is Sexy' campaign the school has been using for the last four years.

But on the heels of the most recent sexual assault investigation, Nguyen said they are pumping up their awareness campaign by handing out wristbands and pins that say 'I love consensual sex.'

The goal is to get a conversation going among students. She encourages students to use social media to share their messages of concern and educate others about sexual assault using #cougarsRESPECT as a tag on twitter and facebook.

Nguyen said fewer than 5% of sexual assaults are reported, so seeing an increase in the number of assaults reported isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I really believe that means students are more aware on what is considered sexual assault and they feel empowered enough that they are making that report," she said.

But the police chief isn't convinced yet.

"Are we seeing an increase purely with the number of crimes? Or are we seeing these crimes with more people reporting? It is just too soon to know," McManus said.

Chief McManus and Nguyen agreed the best resource at this point is the student population. They need to watch out for one another by educating each other on the importance of sexual consent and encourage each other not to drink too much at parties. Chief McManus said he encourages students to use the buddy system when they go out."It is a bystander obligation: male, female everybody to look out for one another," he said.

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