A crime shadowing college campuses

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than half of sexual assault victims report that they consumed alcohol when their assault took place. Simultaneously, the Institute reports that up to 74 percent of perpetrators drink alcohol during the period leading up to an incident. / photo illustration by Bailey Maguire

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than half of sexual assault victims report that they consumed alcohol when their assault took place. Simultaneously, the Institute reports that up to 74 percent of perpetrators drink alcohol during the period leading up to an incident. / photo illustration by Bailey Maguire

by Kellie Galentine
photography by Bailey Maguire

Rebecca Williams remembers the nervousness and fear she felt prior to reporting her sexual assault. When Rebecca’s boyfriend raped her in University of La Verne campus housing, she thought that reporting the crime would not result in any consequences for her perpetrator. “When I first reported it to the school I talked to a resident assistant and I didn’t want to say the whole story. I just wanted to make sure when I was finishing my year, I didn’t want him to come near me or bother me on campus,” Rebecca says. After Rebecca told her mom about the incident, her parents made the choice to contact the school in order to seek justice for their daughter. “Even though (reporting) was kind of pushed on me when I wasn’t ready to, I think that it has helped me to deal with it or heal a little faster than I would have if I hadn’t said anything sooner,” she says.

During the process of reporting her incident, Rebecca says she felt supported by the University of La Verne staff, and feels administration followed Title IX policy. “With all of the schools not handling (sexual assault) well, I think La Verne tries to make sure they handle it in the most efficient, careful, quick way as they can. It is just kind of up to the person to have the courage to try to fight for something,” Rebecca says.

Rebecca, 2014 University of La Verne alumna whose name has been changed, is now a statistic: one of the 31,302 female students who are victims of sexual assault each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice National Crime and Victimization Survey. Sexual assault is an issue beyond college campuses. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network one in 33 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime. Women, however, are more frequently the victims of sexual assault, with one in six experiencing an attempted or completed rape, according to RAINN.

With more than 100 colleges and universities under investigation by the Department of Education for Title IX complaints and California’s passing of the Senate Bill No. 967, sexual assault on college campuses is an issue bolstering attention nationwide. Some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, like Harvard, Columbia, University of California Berkeley and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as local colleges such as Occidental, have pending or completed Title IX investigations. These investigations are the result of survivors coming forward and filing complaints against their colleges—many of which have done so with the assistance of the organization End Rape on Campus. The organization, founded by Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, both survivors from UNC Chapel Hill, helps file claims against schools that are not following Title IX policies.

In California, Senate Bill 967 was passed in 2014 and revised the state Education Code to define an affirmative consent standard for colleges to follow while investigating sexual assault. “‘Affirmative consent’ means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity,” the bill states. The bill requires California schools to have a policy that prevents the accused from blaming intoxication or recklessness on their inability to obtain affirmative consent and provides an outline of conditions by which a complainant is unable to give affirmative consent, such as unconsciousness or intoxication. “Affirmative consent definition passed in California is really important. Both the Clery Act and Title IX never define consent and there is a reason for it, if states don’t do it then individual schools do it,” says Laura Dunn, founder and executive director of SurvJustice, an organization dedicated to advocating for victim’s rights within campus, administrative, civil and criminal processes. Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs and Title IX coordinator at the University of La Verne, ensures the University complies with federal requirements. She has a checklist filled with red, green and blue bubbles of writing to help keep track of new laws and federal bills. Most of the chart appears green, meaning that ULV has adopted policy and action that complies with the laws, while a few bubbles are red, meaning they are in-progress.

Reporting an assault

When students like Rebecca experience sexual assault, under Title IX there are protections they are afforded. In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments became a federally mandated law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. “When a student is a victim of sexual assault, very often she is no longer able to access her education, specifically if she is experiencing a hostile environment,” says Lara Kaufmann, senior counsel and director of education policy for at-risk students at the National Women’s Law Center. “The school has to start an investigation and it must be prompt, thorough and impartial. Schools cannot require a student to report her assault to the police.” At the University of La Verne, all faculty and staff are “responsible employees” required to report any incidents that are revealed to them, despite the request for confidentiality from a student. The only confidential sources to talk to are the counseling center and Chaplain Zandra Wagoner. These confidential sources do, however, have to report to Rahmani that an incident has occurred. “In Title IX, the first three things we want to do is stop the behavior, ensure it doesn’t happen again and make the victim whole—restore the victim,” Rahmani says. She says that the first step would be to make sure the victim has been checked out physically at the hospital, made aware of counseling options and told they have the right to file a police report. Afterward, a Title IX investigator would be assigned to the case, depending on the victim, Rahmani says. In the process of an investigation, accounts of the incident are taken from the victim and the alleged perpetrator, evidence is collected and witnesses are interviewed. “To me, in sexual assault cases, so many are…he-said-she-said cases,” Rahmani says. Because of this, she says, people in contact with either party directly after the incident are also interviewed about behavior that could be relevant to the case.

At the end of Rebecca’s three-week investigation, her perpetrator was suspended. This means that the man was found guilty of rape by administration, but may return to the University of La Verne campus. She, however, will never have to attend school with him again. “In terms of how I would judge the school is doing it right, and I say this every time, but we really need to expel rapists. Like, really need to expel rapists,” says Pino, of End Rape on Campus. “And it seems like it’s very basic but it’s often the last thing I hear happens on a campus. I think no matter how great our policies are, how great our administrators are, unless we actually have anybody being expelled, I don’t see a University actually taking this issue seriously, because it doesn’t see anybody as a potential predator,” she says. Rahmani says that at the University of La Verne rapists have been expelled on more than one occasion. “We have expelled for sexual assaults, we have also suspended for sexual assaults, we have definitely done both, and definitely had appeals from people for both,” she says. Rahmani says that people can appeal if they bring forward new evidence, if they think there was a flaw in the administrative process or if there is a question of whether the sanction was reasonable. “We have not granted an appeal thus far,” she says. Rahmani also said that if a student is suspended, it is likely accompanied by other sanctions such as counseling. “We would have a conversation with that student once they come back to ensure there was a learning from their sanction and a change in behavior,” she says. “Not everybody who is suspended comes back.”

Six Wide Area Emergency Broadcast System towers, also known as WEBS or blue lights, are installed on the University of La Verne’s main campus to provide immediate help to people in emergency situations. WEBS are emergency hands-free phone systems, which operate 24/7, with blue strobe lights to draw attention in the event of a crisis. / photo by Bailey Maguire

Six Wide Area Emergency Broadcast System towers, also known as WEBS or blue lights, are installed on the University of La Verne’s main campus to provide immediate help to people in emergency situations. WEBS are emergency hands-free phone systems, which operate 24/7, with blue strobe lights to draw attention in the event of a crisis. / photo by Bailey Maguire

When a student speaks up about an assault, he or she is told about his or her right to report to the police department. In a Title IX investigation, a college looks for a preponderance of evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that the stated events occurred. In a police investigation the standard is “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” according to Alan Weinreb, police officer and Resident Director for Brandt Hall. The University of La Verne has a memorandum of understanding with the La Verne Police Department, meaning that if an incident occurs at ULV, the school must report that the crime occurred, but if the victim wishes to have his or her name withheld, that is their right. During Rebecca’s investigation, she chose to report her incident to the Pomona Police Department as well as to the university. The Pomona Police Department was involved because of the location of the student’s incident. “I went to the police to file a report, and I had some clothing that I wanted checked for DNA after it happened but my detective was awful. I went through two separate processes, one from the school, and then because my detective was so awful I just got a restraining order,” she says. “It was difficult trying to balance both (investigations), especially because my detective wasn’t very helpful. I couldn’t contact him on many occasions. I went to the police station several times to try to talk to him because he wouldn’t answer my phone calls.” According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, only 32 percent of rapes are even reported to the police, of those only 7 percent lead to an arrest, and two out of every 100 rapists will ever spend a day in prison.

Sexual assault by the numbers

During a Title IX program presented at the University of La Verne by Sigma Alpha Epsilon April 9, Rahmani presented a summary of Title IX cases at La Verne. The statistics for the 2014-15 school year included eight sexual assault cases, one sexual exploitation case, seven instances of sexual harassment, five instances of dating violence and two stalking cases. These numbers, compared to the 2013 Clery Act Crime Statistics Report, are significantly higher. The past report displays two forcible sex offenses in 2013 and two in 2011, with an undergraduate population of about 2,713 students. Cal Poly Pomona’s 2013 Clery Act Crime Statistics show five rapes, five instances of sexual battery and two instances of forcible sexual offenses between 2011 and 2013 with an undergraduate population of about 22,395. At Mt. San Antonio College, a community college in Walnut, California, there is one reported forcible sex offense between 2009 and 2011, with no recently updated statistics and an undergraduate population of more than 37,000. “I would never say that sexual assault is not an issue on any campus it is ever-present. If we ever pretend it doesn’t need to be addressed every time, then it is an issue,” Dunn says.

The low reporting on the Clery Reports could be attributed to the fact that the Clery Act requires that only on-campus assaults be reflected in the statistics. “Clery Report geography is not a good indication of how safe a campus really is,” Pino says. “Harvard has a very high amount of reported sexual assaults on the past Clery report, but also has the highest number of students living on campus. Other schools like Auburn has not had a sexual assault reported in three years. I highly doubt sexual assault does not happen at Auburn.” In the instance of a sexual assault that happens off-campus, but still involves two students from the same university, Title IX still applies. However the reporting would not be reflected in the Clery Crime Statistics and there is no federal mandated reporting system to require schools to release the number.

Prevention, education and healing

California schools are mandated under the revised Education Code to provide education and prevention programs for all incoming students. “The standard helps for prevention education because if we know what sex is and what consent is we can know what to do,” Dunn says. She also says education programs help prevent instances of sexual assault—assaults like Rebecca’s. “Both women and men need to be educated on what steps you can take to protect yourself and steps you can take if this happens to you,” Rebecca says. The Education Code now states that “at a minimum, an outreach program shall include a process for contacting and informing the student body, campus organizations, athletic programs and student groups about the institution’s overall sexual assault policy, the practical implications of an affirmative consent standard and the rights and responsibilities of students under the policy.”

Local universities have adapted to this policy in different ways, using various types of programming. At the University of La Verne, the educational program “Think About It,” was introduced in the fall of 2014 and it was required for all incoming students to participate. “Think About It” is an interactive online program that walks students through a series of lessons on alcohol use, sex and other topics relevant to college freshmen. “If you accept a student into a college it should be required that they have an education program before they even start,” Dunn says. La Verne also introduced the “Step Up” bystander intervention program at fall 2014 orientation. This encourages students to step in when they see a dangerous situation underway. “Step Up,” is in the process of getting incorporated into campus-wide programming, according to Rahmani.

The Claremont College Consortium introduced Teal Dot Training in spring 2014 for all of its current students. “(Teal Dot Training) is completely voluntary, we started last year, which we called year zero,” says Moya Carter, Dean of Students at Pitzer College in Claremont. Carter says the three-hour training strives to equip students to stop sexual assaults before they happen. In March, the Claremont College Consortium also announced it will be opening a shared resource center for sexual violence education, prevention, care and support. Cal Poly Pomona has a Violence Prevention and Women’s Resource Center, which houses its survivor advocate, Title IX coordinator and advises student groups. Mayra Romo, the center’s coordinator and survivor advocate, is a confidential source for victims to go to talk about an incident without being required to report.

Rahmani says she is working on creating a survivor advocate position for the University of La Verne by submitting it in budget requests. In addition, Rahmani says that a memorandum of understanding is in the works with Project Sister, a community organization that helps with crisis intervention. Project Sister is a resource listed at University of La Verne, Cal Poly Pomona and the Claremont Colleges for students to get help directly after or throughout the healing process following a sexual assault.

Rape culture and societal impact

Every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. “We really need to create a deterrence for rape, and the only way that we create that deterrence is by actually having some kind of punishment if this happens,” Pino says. “The way it is right now, way more things are stacked against survivors. You are way more likely to get in trouble, be ostracized by your community, have to drop out, have to take out loans, have to change your major, for being assaulted, but nothing happens if you assault someone.”

For Rebecca, the student brave enough to report her assault at the University of La Verne, the ostracized feeling of living as a survivor holds true. She says that to this day she does not often visit friends on campus because she is afraid of retaliation from friends of her perpetrator. Basic backlash from peers, what Rebecca fears if she returns to campus, is a product of rape culture. Marshall University defines rape culture as “an environment in which rape is prevalent and sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” “Sexual assault is a problem everywhere,” Rebecca says. “They can’t stop it from happening. Unfortunately it is going to happen.”

Since her incident, Rebecca has graduated from the University of La Verne, and continues to strive to reach her goals, reflecting back on her incident in the hope that it will help others—although it is still difficult to discuss.

University of La Verne Campus Safety provides 24-hour assistance for students who want to be escorted to their cars, particularly at night. To arrange a Campus Safety escort call 909-208-4903. / photo by Bailey Maguire

University of La Verne Campus Safety provides 24-hour assistance for students who want to be escorted to their cars, particularly at night. To arrange a Campus Safety escort call 909-448-4950. / photo by Bailey Maguire