It’s no secret that sexual assault is a problem on college campuses. According to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN), female students between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in all other age groups. Male college students are 78 percent more likely to become victims than non-students in their cohorts.
This national issue hits home at Elizabethtown College. Between 2014 and 2015, seven forcible sex offenses and 11 cases of rape were reported to Campus Security, local law enforcement or campus security employees, according to Clery Report Statistics. And since over 50 percent of victims don’t report, according to American Association of Universities statistics, the actual number of incidents may be even higher.
While Etown statistics are well below the national average, even one case of sexual violence is far too many. The College community promotes a zero-tolerance sexual abuse policy and provides support for victims of abuse. Everyone should be informed about current College procedures surrounding claims of sexual violence to waylay any misconceptions about the system and ensure that no miscarriage of justice ever occurs.
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Marianne Calenda said her office frequently provides programming and workshops on the topic of sexual violence prevention. These include orientation programs, partnerships with faculty members, guest speakers and web resources.
Student Wellness sponsored events such as the Clothesline Project in conjunction with Sexual Awareness Month this April.
“Acts of sexual violence and abuse are in direct conflict with our campus community values of peace, non-violence, human dignity and social justice,” Calenda said.
New legislation may help to combat sexual violence in Pennsylvania. As reported by Fox 43 News, Governor Tom Wolf recently released six pieces of legislation as part of the “It’s On Us” campaign. Wolf launched the larger campaign in January 2016 to protect PA students from the nationwide epidemic of sexual violence. The new legislation advocates for the expansion of reporting anonymous reporting options and the publication of an annual “report card” detailing incidents of sexual harassment in postsecondary institutions.
Another legislation promotes the adoption of new amnesty policies, so students who report assault will not face charges for violations like drug and alcohol abuse. The legislation calls for the mandatory adoption of affirmative consent standards in K-12 and postsecondary schools.
Both the College and the state are working to combat this widespread problem. But what happens when a student does become a victim?
Calenda urges students to come forward with reports of sexual violence. “The College takes seriously all reports, including anonymous ones, and will proceed with an investigation to the fullest extent possible,” she said.
Many students seem unaware of this investigation process, or else uncertain of its effectiveness. Equity and Title IX Coordinator Armenta Hinton provides further resources and information for students who have experienced or witnessed sexual assault. College policy aligns closely with Title IX regulations, which prohibit sexual harassment in all forms.
When deciding whether or not to make a report, students may wish to maintain a level of confidentiality. It is important to understand which members of the College community have the responsibility to report an incident. For example, Campus Security, RA’s and faculty members must report all details of an incident.
Others, including the Health Liaison and athletic trainers, are not obligated to share the name of the victim or perpetrator when reporting an incident. Both counselors and chaplains are under no obligation to report an incident of sexual violence. A complete breakdown of this list is on the Etown Title IX webpage.
If a student shares the incident with a mandated reporter, the details are given to Hinton. Hinton works closely with other vice presidents to determine the appropriate course of action. If an investigation is necessary, both the student and the alleged perpetrator are notified no more than seven business days following the initial complaint.
If appropriate, a formal investigation occurs 14-30 business days from the date of the official complaint. During this time, all involved parties are interviewed and College records are reviewed. Approximately five days after the completion of the investigation, the College notifies all parties of their decision. If anyone is dissatisfied with the outcome, they have the next five days to appeal. The decision of the appeal is final.
If students ever disagree with the outcome of an investigation, Calenda encourages them to share their complaints.
“If the case is closed, I would carefully listen to the student and offer additional support resources as needed in response to any immediate safety or wellbeing concerns,” she said. “I would then inform the appropriate colleagues about the complaint and collaborate with them to develop an official response and detailed plan for improvement in order to better support students in the future.”
Regardless of outcome, students involved in a sexual violence incident often need medical counseling support. College policy encourages students to seek a medical exam within 72 hours of an assault. Both Hershey and Lancaster hospitals have a team of qualified medical professionals that can assist in recovery. Receiving medical care does not obligate you to report the assault.
Counseling Services delivers confidential sessions for victims of sexual violence. These sessions are free to all full-time, traditional program students. The Chaplain’s office provide consultation and pastoral care. Additionally, the Lancaster YWCA offers a Sexual Assault Prevention and Counselling Center with staff that is available 24 hours per day.
Sexual assault is a prevalent problem on College campuses. Etown is no exception. However, Hinton, Calenda and other Etown administrators seek to combat this issue by implementing an investigative procedure that ties closely with Title IX regulations. Student Life and Student Wellness host programs and sessions to raise awareness of sexual assault. Hinton also believes the new state legislation will strengthen the effort against sexual violence.
Etown students can also play a part in combating sexual assault. Attend a workshop or a program to become more well-informed about these issues and the role of the bystander. Above all, remember that all students are deserving of kindness and respect. Together, we can work toward making Etown a safer, more secure campus for each and every Blue Jay.