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Brandeis hires full-time sexual assault services specialist

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 9, 2013 12:02 PM

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Brandeis University has hired its first-ever full-time sexual assault services and prevention specialist this month, one semester after the university said it investigated an alleged sexual assault.

However, officials said the recent hiring had no connection to the alleged assault that happened this past January and reportedly involved a Brandeis fraternity member.

“We’re facing all the same challenges others are facing in regards to these issues,” said Brandeis University spokeswoman Ellen de Graffenreid. “I came to Brandeis from UNC Chapel Hill, where there were a number of similar issues. Unfortunately, it’s something we all need to pay attention to.”

The alleged sexual assault took place off-campus on Dartmouth Street and was reported in late January, according to the Waltham police and de Graffenreid, who said Brandeis police were working with town authorities on the case.

An article published in The Waltham News Tribune and The Brandeis Hoot earlier this year indicated that the person accused of sexual assault was a Brandeis fraternity member, though the school does not formally recognize or affiliate with Greek societies.
Brandeis fraternity officers and the Greek Awareness Council sent an e-mail Jan. 24 to all Greek life students after the alleged assault asking them not to discuss the incident, according to The Hoot and the Tribune.

In a phone interview Feb. 5, de Graffenreid would not confirm if Brandeis students were involved in the alleged sexual assault. However, she did note that Brandeis University has not recognized sororities or fraternities as of 1988.

De Graffenreid said she could not provide any update on the case Oct. 9.

“I can’t disclose those things due to privacy reasons,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sheila McMahon, who headed up Boston College’s Women’s Resource Center for four years, will begin the new full-time sexual assault services position at Brandeis on Nov. 1.

The university has been searching for someone to fill the position since the summer, de Graffenreid said.

“We are so pleased to get a national leader at Brandeis,” de Graffenreid said. “I can’t wait for Ms. McMahon to get here. I think she’ll be fantastic.”

McMahon received her bachelor’s in English and women’s studies from Boston College, and earned her Master of Divinity at Harvard University. She went on to complete leadership training at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, and has a Master of Social Work from Rutgers University.

She will graduate from Rutgers with her PhD in social work in May 2014. McMahon has also worked at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers.

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