The University of La Verne’s annual security report was sent to all students, faculty and staff late last month – with four reported cases of rape on the main campus in 2017.
“We get the reports from three sources: the police, … our own incident tracker when somebody comes in to report to us directly, and we also get information from housing,” said David Keetle, director of campus safety, who sent the report out by email on Sept. 27.
Based on national statistics – that one-in-six women can expect to be sexually assaulted during her time in college, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN – such incidents across college campuses are woefully under-reported.
Following Sexual Assault Awareness Week earlier this month, and considering the national discussion surrounding the recent Supreme Court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh – it is important for victims of sexual assault to know what resources are available to help them through such a traumatic event.
“There’s no single answer (and) it goes beyond one person,” said Megan C. Jackson, Title IX director for the University.
“The importance of reporting is to inform people of what’s going on. How do we address the issue, and prevent it from happening again, if no one even knows what’s happening?”
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education including protecting those who report sexual assault, even if the person reporting asks to be kept anonymous, Stephen Heggem, residence life coordinator, told students at the “From Bystander to Upstander” event earlier this month.
“Title IX outlines a student’s rights and processes for an investigation. It protects the dignity of all students, and we do our best to create a safe environment,” Heggem said. “We do our best to make sure that these students are being attended to and doing alright emotionally, physically and mentally.”
There are several ways to report here, including reporting directly to Campus Safety or to the La Verne Police department or both. Either will trigger an investigation, and alleged victims names can be withheld.
The other way to report is via a form on the University website: laverne.edu/title-ix/reporting, or by contacting any of the Title IX investigators listed on the webpage, said Juan Regalado, dean of students, who is also a Title IX investigator.
“Reporting is a big thing; there are options,” Regalado said. “We want to make sure that we help you and support you in the best way we can, make sure that we connect you with resources if needed, and the options needed to report.”
Following the Senate approval of Kavanaugh, many victims feel helpless, Heggem said. As if reporting will do nothing for them.
“That is a mountain we are climbing” Jackson said. “We have to continue to educate, to continue to openly discuss what’s going on… We’re defining what it means for us as a University. We’re defining our culture… Addressing it when you see it and openly indicating that it’s not okay is how we work to change.”
In terms of anonymous reporting, it may be a little more difficult to decide a course of action, Regalado explained. Typically, the University will record it and hold it to see if anything else will surface. Other times, they may report it to the police department, letting them know they do not have anything else to go on other than an anonymous report, he said.
There is also confidential reporting where a victim would confide in a designated official whose only duty is to help, not report.
Such designated officials include the University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, the Counseling and Psychological Services or Project Sister.
Project Sister provides assistance such as victim advocacy, accompaniment, counseling and services such as a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual misconduct.
“Sometimes a person may contact confidential reporters,” Regalado said. “The idea is that the individuals have the opportunity to reach out and make contact with someone who does not have a duty to report, because they may not necessarily want anything to happen.”
When a victim survives an instance of sexual assault, they have had power stripped from them. The point in allowing survivors the opportunity to report however they feel comfortable is to allow them control over their decisions, Heggem said.
A victim has the right to decide whether they want to continue with a full-blown investigation, or not. This is due to the fact that not all victims may be ready to engage in the full process, Regalado said.
“When somebody has been a victim, it can be a very emotionally, traumatizing experience. Having something done may be perceived by them as creating more harm,” Regalado said. “The idea is to allow a victim to have a little bit more control over what occurred, but also making sure the victim has access to take care of themselves.”
However, reporting is not the only way to make change when it comes to the handling of sexual assault. Educating each other and resisting the “bystander effect” are great first steps that allow others to support victims without pressuring them to report.
“It’s one of those things where you can see society making strides, but it’s continuous and we’re going to have to keep going. It’s more than just here, it’s more than just us, it’s bigger. We’re trying to change the world,” Jackson said. “Change is not always as quick as we need it. It’s interesting to see the development… We have work to do, but at least we’re starting to make strides.”
One can also educate others through combating the bystander effect, where everyone can effectively follow the “Direct, Distract or Delegate” protocol.
The point of the protocol is to find ways to effectively stand up for victims without brushing off an incident as nobody’s business.
One can directly step in to intervene, speaking up and stating that the incident is wrong. One can also distract the perpetrator, so as to move the victim out of harm’s way, and the last is to delegate action to someone with more authority or power over the situation, in case the bystander may feel incapable of handling the situation properly.
“We have to educate and continue to educate our society and community… It’s still a conversation that needs to be had,” Jackson said.
Title IX offers resources to victims in need, even those who may not have been assaulted on campus, but attend or work for the University now, Jackson said.
This is not to say that the University will file a report and begin an investigation on a case they have no jurisdiction over. What it means is that if a student were to go to the Title IX office with their own account of sexual assault, they will always be offered resources available, such as CAPS or Project Sister.
It is important to remember that if a survivor of sexual assault discloses that they are a victim, it is not the responsibility of anyone to report unless they are mandated reporters, such as RAs on campus, or have been explicitly asked to report on their behalf.
“The most painful thing you can do is share their story and report for them when they don’t want it reported. Especially because there may be dynamics or details of the assault that we’re not privy to,” Heggem said.
Reporting is important, but just being offered the adequate resources may be all a survivor is asking for. Support for victims will always be offered, and no one should ever fear asking for support.
“Every case is unique and different, and it depends on the person. The decision to report or not report is completely dependent on the individuals,” Regalado said. “The University has a duty to stop the behavior [sexual assault], to engage in offering support and to assist the victim in the appropriate remediation.”
The resources available are in place to help victims never feel shamed for gaining their livelihood back. Victims should never feel guilty for non-consensual actions completely out of their control.
“Title IX protects students if they do come forward. It’s our responsibility as administrators to make sure that all of our students are taken care of,” Heggem said.
Resources are available for victims at laverne.edu/title-ix/reporting.
Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at email@example.com.