A study from the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that 25 percent of women attending four-year colleges will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate. Astonishingly, less than five percent will actually report the crime. This makes rape an extremely crucial issue for colleges to focus on, and to help prevent.
Here at the Claremont Colleges, there is a tight sense of community, and it is easy for many students to remain unaware of the fact that a number of rape incidents occur on campus. However, in 2010, which is the most recent data available, seven forcible sex offenses were reported across the five campuses: one at CMC, one at Harvey Mudd, two at Pomona, and three at Scripps. None were reported at Pitzer. If national averages apply here, and 95 percent of rapes are unreported, that would mean that there were a total of 140 forcible sex offenses on the five campuses in 2010.
There are many reasons why a rape might go unreported. A CMC sophomore who decided not to report her rape said that she felt embarrassed and was worried about the implications of reporting such an incident.
“I didn’t want it to become a big deal. I didn’t want people to think I was lying [about the incident occurring] because we were both drunk,” said the sophomore.
The sophomore also says that she was nervous that her peers on campus would find out that she reported the perpetrator, and was worried that her reputation might be tarnished. It seems that Claremont’s tight community is definitely a contributing factor to the level of difficulty regarding reporting rape incidents.
In addition to being concerned about a tarnished reputation, an individual may also be wary of getting in trouble for other offenses that may have lead to the incident such as drug and alcohol use. However, according to the CMC Civil Rights Policies, the prior use of drugs and/or alcohol would only be taken into consideration for either party if there was compelling reason to believe that prior use or abuse is relevant to the present complaint.
If someone does decide to report a rape, each campus takes different measures. The guidelines for procedures across the five campuses are often confusing and difficult for students to find. Scripps and Pitzer are the two schools with a detailed outline in their handbook of their procedure for when a rape is reported. Pomona also has a very detailed procedure, although it can only be found in their Dean of Students Disciplinary Policies and Procedures. CMC and Harvey Mudd only list the Rape Crisis Hotline number in their student handbooks, but provide detailed information online through their Dean of Students Disciplinary Policies and Procedures as well.
For students who don’t immediately report an assault, the Project Sister hotline is an amazing resource listed in the handbooks of all five colleges. This resource provides assistance to people living in 27 cities in Southern California, including Claremont. According to Zinat Heredia, a Project Sister staff member, when a victim of a sexual assault calls their hotline, they will be connected to an advocate who has undergone at least 50 hours of training and is certified as a crisis counselor. They have 80 advocates, which allows them to have at least one on call 24/7. No matter the age of the victim, Project Sister remains confidential and will not contact law enforcement or the school nor participate in legal action.
“[Project Sister] does encourage people to report their incidents, and if the victim decides to do so, the police will be notified,” said Heredia.
Project Sister also has resources like advocates who will accompany survivors to the hospital or to the police station, and in court appearances. They also provide counseling services which are free or discounted for most victims.
According to Zinat Heredia, out of the 717 Hotline Callers in 2011, 19 callers were from the city of Claremont, and all were female. Additionally in that year, Heredia said that two hospital accompaniments out of 134 were from Claremont and that the average ages of callers from Claremont was 19-24.
An alternative to Project Sister is the campus based Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault. This student-initiated group based at Pomona is intended to assist victims at any stage of the reporting process. Pomona is the only college who lists the Advocates as a resource in their student handbook, but they are available to help anyone at all seven campuses. The mission of the Advocates is to “educate the community about the complex issues that underlie sexual assault, and to provide support for individual survivors of sexual assault.”
According to the Advocates, one of the two Advocates on call for the week will call back as soon as possible, or contacts the caller in whatever way they dictate in their message to us. We also have just launched a pager system, which will be more widely advertised very soon. The Advocates also offer community workshops, and educate the community about various forms of sexual assault.
“We [the advocates] do not claim to be professional counselors, but we are sensitive to issues of sexual assault and domestic violence, and know a lot about resources,” said a spokesperson for the advocates. “We help survivors in any way they see fit.”
Shahram Araine, director of Campus Safety at the Claremont Colleges, says that the normal protocol when Campus Safety is informed about a rape incident is to notify the Dean of Students, and then, only if the victim is under 18 are local police notified. He also said that Campus Safety does not have any sort of information regarding how many rapes or attempted rapes go unreported each year. According to Campus Safety, the reason they do not have these statistics is due to privacy issues.
With Scripps having the highest distribution of reported rapes of all the 5Cs, it is natural to assume that this is because it has the highest proportion of female students. However, at a women’s college, where students are educated about rape prevention and are informed about how to deal with such consequences, there is a heightened awareness about rape. As a consequence, students are more likely to report an incident if it occurs. Regardless of whether the most rapes do in fact involve Scripps student, the other colleges should take follow Scripps and place an emphasis on educating their students on preventing and reporting rape.
The national statistics about campus rape are startling, and it is even more startling if you take into account the sheer number of incidents that remain unreported. If we want a safe environment for our college students, some dramatic action needs to be taken. As college students, we have a duty to look out for ourselves and for our friends, and to make sure that we foster a type of environment that encourages the reporting of any kind of sexual assault.