By Amanda Eisenberg
Three Ivy League schools and 52 other competitive public and private universities in 27 states and Washington, D.C., made it on the list this year for mishandling sexual violence and harassment claims. This university was not on that list, but has made an effort to improve the clarity, language and process for survivors.
Within the coming months, the University Senate will vote on the new amendments to this university’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures.
“I’m optimistic that the changes … will go untouched,” Senate Executive Committee member Ryan Belcher said, who reviewed the policy at the Oct. 24 meeting. “We didn’t offer many changes [but] the policy is only set for students. They’re dropping the new faculty policy, and it will be finished by December and approved from there.”
University President Wallace Loh approved the policy on an interim basis before it reached the committee, and the senate will address the policy by its last meeting for the semester on Dec. 11.
The new policy changes how the university is adjudicating sexual misconduct, said Director and Title IX Coordinator Catherine Carroll.
“Before I came, [survivors] would go through regular student conduct process,” she said. “For sexual misconduct cases … there is a lot of participation by lawyers, and to some degree, lack of control over the process.”
She noted that the old process is intimidating and might discourage students from engaging and actually using it.
The new model for reporting and conducting a sexual misconduct case is investigative and done through the Office of Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence.
“My office makes a recommendation about whether there’s been a policy [violation],” Carroll said. “If the parties don’t agree, they would go to a standing review committee where the investigator presents the violation and either party can submit questions.”
She said the policy change in the process puts the committee in charge of the outcome and streamline how that’s going to happen.
Some sexual assault survivors choose not to come forward and report immediately, if at all.
Meanwhile, up to 25 percent of women during their college career will be raped, likely by someone they know, according to One in Four’s website.
The majority of campus perpetrators, however, will commit an average of six rapes each, according to Know Your IX’s website.
For students who want to tell someone without going through the legal proceedings, they can receive help from Campus Advocates Respond and Educate to Stop Violence at the University Health Center, which works in collaboration with Carroll’s office.
“We’ve structured it that if someone wanted to not report and deal with CARE,” Carroll said, “CARE can facilitate the request for accommodations on their behalf.”
CARE sees around 200 clients every year, Assistant Coordinator Stephanie Rivero said, but the vast majority of those people visit only once.
She described CARE as a “pit stop to get them what they need,” whether it’s a police liaison service, help finding housing if they feel unsafe in their current home or financial assistance through the Health Center Victim Assistance Fund; Rivero said they usually give around $500 for medical expenses to victims.
Beyond trained professionals, a team of peer educators helps organize events and educate the campus student body on sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and bystander intervention, according to CARE’s website.
Former Diamondback editor in chief and 2013 alumna Lauren Redding was one of the peer educators for Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program, now known as CARE.
Redding was raped by a man she described as “someone I knew, trusted and valued” in her sophomore year at this university. She said she didn’t tell anyone about her rape for seven months.
“I started seeing a counselor and taking Prozac for my depression and anxiety,” she wrote in an email. “That made life easier, but I don’t think I really started to heal until the spring of my junior year, about one year after my rape.”
During the healing process, Redding said she found feminism and became engulfed in activism.
“It’s hard for me to explain how important feminism became to me – It was like my lighthouse,” she wrote. “I would just struggle in class and at work throughout the work until the end of the day when I could come home and real bell hooks and Gloria Steinem. I’ve never been a religious person but I know a lot of people talk about ‘finding God.’ I’ve never found God, but I’ll never forget finding feminism.”
Not unlike Redding, many survivors of sexual assault struggle with schoolwork after the attack. Rivero said CARE also helps students academically by contacting the professors to make up for missed or poorly performed work.
However, the policy states that “academic accommodations such as assistance in transferring to another section of a lecture or laboratory, assistance in arranging for incompletes, leaves or withdrawal from campus, or rearranging class schedules” are available for survivors.
“There is no mention of your right to retake a class,” Alyssa Peterson, policy organizer for Know Your IX, said. “Some people will want to stay in school or leave campus, and there’s a substantial penalty from a W.”
The policy fails to mention financial penalties that result in withdrawing from classes or leaving school altogether.
“We’re looking at the economic effects of violence,” Peterson said. “A huge priority of ours is making sure survivors who are forced to leave get their money back.”