I-Team: College student shares sex assault experience

I-Team investigation of sex assaults on campus

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - "He said he was sorry," Southern Illinois University sophomore Kelly Meloy said of the male acquaintance who sexually assaulted her during her freshman year. "That's pretty much all I got."

After it happened, Meloy said she found herself scared and confused.

But, she's sharing her very personal story with us, as the national debate grows.

What can and should our universities be doing to keep our students safe?

Right now, nearly 120 universities across the country are under investigation for the handling of sexual assault cases.

Well-respected universities like Stanford and Boston make that dubious list, along with big regional schools like the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky.

Many stand accused of not doing enough to help sexual assault victims, and in some cases even trying to cover up alleged crimes.

The Heartland News I-Team dug into our local university records and found this issue hits very close to home.

Government numbers show 1 in 5 female students is a victim of an unwanted sexual advance on campus, and Kelly Meloy is one of them.

"It happened during an SIU drinking holiday," Meloy said of the incident that changed her life. "And I ended up meeting up with this guy that I had been kinda talking to."

She drew the line.

"I had made it clear to him that I did not want to have sex."

And he crossed it.

"I became unconscious. And I woke up to him sexually assaulting me."

Kelly said at first, she wasn't really clear about what had just happened, or what she should do.

"I hadn't had the sex talk with my parents since ...the first time I had it was coming to college. So, I was 18 year old. And this happened when I was 18 years old," she said.

Kelly admits she didn't report the assault at first. She said she was scared to tell her parents, so she didn't tell anyone.

And, Kelly's certainly not alone.

The American Civil Liberties Union estimates as many as 95 percent of campus rapes go unreported.

"I was worried about everyone else," she said.

At the same time Meloy began her freshman year, the Obama Administration unveiled a nationwide campaign to shift the mindset of college students when it comes to sexual assault. "It's On Us" seeks to create an environment, be it in a dorm room; a party; or a club, where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

SIU's task force formed in early February 2015.

"It started actually the week after I was sexually assaulted," Meloy recalled. "And I was asked to join the task force. So, I think of it as kind of a blessing that I got to join the task force and then kind of realize was consent was and what it wasn't."

Once she realized she was a victim, Kelly told two of her friends and began confidential counseling through the university.

"So finally, I was in counseling, I realized reached the point where I decided I wanted to report," she said.

Kelly reported her assault to the Office of Diversity and Equity, rather than campus police, and the investigation started. That meant her perpetrator could face punishment on campus, but not through the courts.

Did you go through a period of time where you blamed yourself, we asked.

"Yes. Yes I did. I didn't know that it could not be my fault," she said. "I just thought oh, this had happened. And I need to get over it."

Kelly said she had a good experience with university leaders who listened to her story and interviewed witnesses. But, the process was long, the appeals process longer. Kelly would often see her perpetrator on campus.

Then, as she began her sophomore year, she learned her perpetrator had been expelled for a year.

With the support of her family and friends, Kelly continues a journey of healing.

"It's a roller coaster," she said. "Some days it's great. Some days it's oh, I don't want to go outside. I don't want to go out of my room. It's definitely a challenge sometimes to talk to people about it."

Kelly said, whether a student chooses to report an incident or not, simply talking to others is part of the healing process.

Crystal Britt and Kathy Sweeney dug deeper into the issue of sexual assault on three main college campuses in the Heartland: SIU, Murray State University and Southeast Missouri State University.

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