This week Pomona College, along with the other 5Cs, released its annual crime statistics for 2012. The number of reported sex offenses across the consortium more than doubled from seven cases in 2011 to 16 in 2012. Does this mean the incidence of sexual violence increased? More likely, this increase in the number of reports was a product of the increased attention and visibility to the issue of sexual violence on campus and efforts to facilitate reporting by survivors. Still, we know that at Pomona and the other 5Cs, sexual violence is significantly underreported. What have we done to address this? And what more do we need to do?
Consider the following scenario:
Student A from one college attends a party at another of the 5Cs where Student A meets Student B. They begin to talk. They agree to go back to Student B’s residence hall room to continue their conversation. Later, Student A reports being sexually assaulted by Student B. If this happened a couple of years ago, the home campus of Student A would not be part of the investigation; rather, it would be conducted solely by the home campus of Student B. Student A would not know if the definitions of sexual misconduct and consent were the same across campuses, and could find it painful and challenging to deal with all the judicial procedures and processes that apply on Student B’s home campus.
Regardless of the judicial outcome, both students’ full experiences demonstrate the need for greater consortium-wide consistency, increased education to reduce sexual violence, and sustained victim services.
Students who are targets of sexual violence already face many barriers when they come forward. They are less likely to seek support if systems to address sexual violence have too little clarity and limited visibility throughout the consortium culture. If we compare 2012 Clery reporting for all seven institutions and 2012 American College Health Association-National College Health Association (ACHA-NCHA II) survey results for the five undergraduate institutions, the gap is clear.
In 2012, 16 forcible sex offenses were reported on our Clery reports, while on the 2012 aggregate ACHA-NCHA II survey results from the 5Cs 12.7 percent of female and 6.6 percent of male respondents reported experiencing sexual touching without their consent, 4.7 percent of females and 2.2 percent of males reported a sexual penetration attempt without their consent, 2.9 percent of females and 2.2 percent of males reported sexual penetration without their consent, 4.5 percent of females and 3.5 percent of males reported stalking, and 0.9 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men reported a sexually abusive intimate relationship.
A fall 2012 Pomona College Campus Audit of programs and services related to addressing sexual violence confirmed that Pomona students are uncertain about cross-campus processes and would benefit from stronger victim services and more consistent, cross-campus education and training to reduce sexual violence.
Where are we now? All five Claremont undergraduate institutions and two graduate institutions have agreed to joint investigations with cross-campus incidents, and all seven institutions have agreed to common definitions for sexual violence, misconduct, and consent. Earlier this semester, our seven institutions unveiled the new Seven College Sexual Misconduct Resources website where students, faculty, and staff can access information on resources, policies, and sources of support at each of the 5Cs.
More still needs to be done. We will continue to monitor and review the effectiveness of our policies and procedures. Our attention and energy will now also pivot to two equally important areas: education and outreach to our campus community, and support and resources for survivors.
In the coming weeks and months, we will focus on identifying current structures and resources for survivors and determine how we can improve or enhance those resources and identify those that we need to add. We will be working on ways to engage our campus community on the goal of creating and illuminating a culture of consent among all of us, and explore conversations about bystander engagement.
Since 2008, we have been making progress toward addressing the problem of sexual assault and sexual violence on campus, and we will continue that work. If you have comments, suggestions, or feedback for us, please do not hesitate to contact either one of us.
To view the Seven College Sexual Misconduct Resources website, visit http://7csexualmisconductresources.claremont.edu/.
Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum and Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership Daren Mooko are Pomona College’s Title IX Coordinators.