How It’s Handled Here: Sexual Misconduct on Campus

By Emilie Munson

According to the 2015 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report due to release this week, nine rapes were reported last year, one incident of forced fondling and three incidents of dating violence occurred on the College’s campus in 2014.
These statistics are hard to understand without some context. How does the College’s sexual assault rate compare to that of other colleges and universities?
A massive survey of over 150,000 college students is making answering that question more clear.
On September 21, 2015, the Association of American Universities, an elite higher education trade group, released the findings of a 27-school sexual assault climate survey, one of the largest surveys about sexual violence among college students in the United States to date.The survey found that about one in ten female college students say they have experienced sexual assault involving penetration, by force or incapacitation.
Specifically, 11.4 percent of undergraduate women and 14.8 percent of LGBTQ students experience sexual assault involving penetration or oral sex. One in five students experience unwanted sexual contact, such as forced kissing or groping, and half to three quarters of students said they had experienced sexual harassment.
The survey also found that risk for sexual assault for females was highest during their freshman year and steadily declined thereafter. Among freshman, 16.9 percent of women reported nonconsensual sexual contact — including penetrative rape, oral sex, kissing or groping — by physical force or incapacitation. That percentage declined to a low of 11.1 percent among senior females.
Finally, the survey revealed that only 28 percent or less of even the most serious sexual assault cases were reported to university officials or law enforcement. Nearly three quarters of assaults went unreported because the victim did not consider the incident “serious enough,” they were embarrassed or they did not think the university or police would do anything about it.
150,072 students responded to the survey, which had an overall response rate of 19.3 percent.
These new statistics highlight sexual assault as a significant issue across American college campuses.
Making a specific comparison between the College and this national average is difficult. Concrete figures on the number of unreported sexual assaults at the College are unavailable. Associate Dean for Judicial Affairs and Student Life Karen Guttentag estimates, however, that sexual assault rates at the College are on par with national averages.
Data from annual campus security reports dating back to 2002 reveal that an average of five sexual assaults are reported each year.
Alarmingly, higher rates of sexual assault were reported in 2013 and 2014 — the most recent years for which we have data — than any other years in the past decade. Notably, in 2013, 17 sexual assaults were reported to Public Safety, more than three times the number reported the year before. Two instances of dating violence were also reported.
So far in 2015, only one instance of sexual assault taking place on the College’s campus has been reported to Public Safety. At least one other alleged sexual assault was reported to the College but it took place while a student of the College was abroad, namely the John Doe case.
Vice President of Communications and Marketing Bill Burger asserts that the College is not satisfied even with a low sexual assault rate.
“We will never be satisfied until there are no reports of sexual assault of any kind on our campuses,” said Burger. “While we hope the drop in reported cases is a reflection of the education, awareness and prevention programs we have put in place in recent years and of the increased public attention being given to sexual assault on college campuses, we take no comfort in these numbers and we will continue to act aggressively to address the issue.”
Associate Professor of Psychology Matthew Kimble has been researching sexual assault and sexual trauma on several northeastern college campuses.
“One thing is clear … sexual assault occurs on all types of campuses and no campus is immune,” said Kimble. “Even if the rates at a given campus were relatively low, there would still be good reason for the community to be ready to respond well when an assault occurs as well as have programs in place to prevent assaults in the future.”

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