The Argus Examines University Sexual Assault Response
The Sexual Misconduct and Assault Policy in the Student Handbook states, “Wesleyan University prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct and assault which can include but is not limited to sexual coercion, stalking, intimidation, assault, and rape. Sexual misconduct includes any sexual activity for which consent is not given.”
The 2011 Wesleyan University Uniform Campus Crime Report, compiled in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, states that 17 forcible sex offenses occurred at Wesleyan from 2009 through 2011.
In recent years, the University has received a great deal of media attention for reports of sexual misconduct on its campus. Wesleyan University, like a number of other colleges, including Swarthmore College, Occidental College, and Amherst College, has been accused of mishandling cases of sexual assault.
The current lawsuit against the University, which was filed by a former Wesleyan student (“Jane Doe”) who was raped during a Halloween party at the Beta Theta Pi (Beta) fraternity house in 2010, charges the University with a violation of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, such discrimination can include acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape when a federally funded school’s response is “clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.”
However, these reported statistics and high-profile cases do not fully illustrate the prevalence of sexual assault, as rape is considered one of the most underreported crimes. The reasons for this underreporting are varied and include confusion about the judicial process or belief that it may be ineffectual, fear of judgment or punishment, uncertainty about what qualifies as assault, and misplaced guilt.
The Argus conducted an investigation into the University’s handling of sexual assault—the reporting process, the judicial process, consequences for the accused, resources for survivors, and efforts at prevention.
The Argus spoke with administrators, Public Safety (PSafe), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff members, Residential Life (ResLife) employees, and current and former Wesleyan students who are survivors of sexual assault or harassment. Survivors who requested anonymity are referred to under pseudonyms.
The views of survivors represented here cannot adequately portray the range of experiences resulting from sexual misconduct on campus. However, the stories shared with The Argus indicate that certain aspects of the process do not sufficiently meet the needs of survivors and that there is more work to be done.
The Judicial Process
The first step of the judicial process is reporting. After an incident of sexual assault or harassment, survivors may choose to share their experiences with a confidential or mandatory reporter.
Some members of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) are not obligated to report assaults or harassment to PSafe or the students’ deans. These confidential reporters include Psychotherapist Larry Antosz, Physician Associate Sandy Frimel, Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, and Therapist and Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren. Although not specifically trained to respond to sexual assaults, Davison Health Center clinicians, CAPS therapists, and clergy members are also confidential reporters.
Students can also report assaults to class deans, Residential Life (ResLife) staff members, SART Intern Rachel Verner, or professors. These people are mandatory reporters, meaning they are required to report instances of sexual assault to the Office of the Dean of Students.
In addition, or alternatively, survivors can officially report incidents to the Middletown Police Department (MPD), to PSafe, to both, or not at all. Warren is available to talk through the options with the survivor.
“We try to keep our process very survivor-centered, so it’s what that person wants to do,” Warren said. “... We also talk about [the fact that] there’s no pressure. If you don’t want to report at this moment, you don’t have to, that you can report later. So we just want to make sure that people know what all their options are.”
If a survivor of sexual assault chooses to report the assault to the MPD soon after it occurs, the survivor will first be sent or escorted to a hospital to be examined by a nurse. Clothes and, if applicable, linens that could potentially contain bodily fluids will be submitted to a state lab and inspected for evidence.
Following a visit to the hospital, the survivor will be interviewed by a detective. If the survivor feels uncomfortable speaking with a detective of a particular gender, ze can request to speak with a detective of hir preferred gender.
Police will then lead an investigation into the case. PSafe officers may be asked to help locate students or to allow MPD officers access to buildings when necessary. If evidence, facts, and witness accounts lead to the identification of the assailant, the MPD will apply for an arrest warrant through the state’s attorney. If the warrant is granted, the assailant will be arrested and the case taken to court.
If the survivor decides to address the case within the University soon after the incident, ze will be encouraged to do a rape kit. If ze decides to press charges within the University framework, PSafe completes an investigation and turns the findings over to an administrative judicial board.
The board, which is separate from the Student Judicial Board, is composed of four administrators, two male and two female, taken from a pool of between 12 and 15 members who have been trained to adjudicate cases of sexual assault.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Culliton, 17 cases have been brought before the judicial board in the past five years.
Warren stressed that the decision of whether or not to officially report and to whom is in the hands of the survivor. She also noted that, because the judicial process is specifically aimed at making rulings on cases of sexual assault, the administrators cannot address or punish other actions that could, under other circumstances, be reason for punishment, such as underage alcohol consumption.
“I think sometimes that can be a deterrent to reporting because I think people don’t always understand or don’t always know that,” she said. “But if someone is intoxicated at the time of their assault, they’re not going to have a drinking violation [if they report the assault].”
When checking in with the survivor and assessing hir safety and comfort, Warren can also discuss with the survivor any accommodations ze might need to help hir avoid coming into contact with the alleged perpetrator. If requested and possible, the University can move the perpetrator from a class or residence hall that ze shares with the survivor.
“What we’re trying to do is not to create more havoc and crisis in a survivor’s life, as they’re already going through a really tough time,” Warren said. “So the other student is the person who’s most likely to get moved.”
On a small campus, contact between the survivor and the perpetrator may still be hard to avoid. Survivor A, who wrote to The Argus under the condition of anonymity, said ze was raped by someone ze knew early in hir first year at the University. Ze also said that hir assailant tried to get in touch with hir after the incident.
“I woke up the next morning to a text saying ‘sorry if I made you uncomfortable last night,’” ze wrote in an email to The Argus. “Uncomfortable does not even begin to cover it.”
Warren noted that the perpetrator often tries to contact the survivor to explain or normalize the situation. She explained that a no-contact order, administered by the University, or a legal restraining order can be granted in order to prevent this from occurring.
However, no-contact orders may not be effective.
“The thing is, it is a small campus,” said Eve ’10, who was sexually assaulted by another student while working in Olin Library in the spring of 2010 and was granted a no-contact order. “The individual was not supposed to get within a certain number of feet of me, but before you know it, he’d be behind me at the coffee line. I would call up the administration and tell them, and they would talk to him—you know, ‘If this behavior continues...’”
If the survivor decides to pursue official judicial action, ze and the defendant each writes a statement detailing what happened and turns it in to the Office of the Dean of Students. Before the hearing, which usually takes place in North College, each person can see the other’s statement and provide more information or edit hir statement in response.
In cases involving alleged student perpetrators and student survivors, the survivor and the alleged perpetrator can each bring a process advisor and witnesses to the trial. Warren noted that this process does not include lawyers and that the process advisors are present to silently support each party, not to “represent” them. Warren often serves as a process advisor for survivors, although survivors can choose from a variety of people to sit with them during the trial. Alleged perpetrators also have many options, and class deans, professors, and advisors are often the ones asked to sit in.
At the beginning of the hearing, there is an announcement to both parties explaining the process and format of the hearing. The charges are read, and the accused pleads “responsible” or “not responsible.” Following that, the survivor’s statement is read, and then the administrators on the panel have the opportunity to ask any clarifying questions that they feel are necessary. The same process then happens for the alleged perpetrator. If either side has brought witnesses (who are typically students), witnesses have the chance to give statements and be questioned. Each party can then give a closing statement. The chair of the hearing informs the parties that they will be notified of the outcome of the hearing as soon as the board comes to a decision, which is usually within a day of the hearing.
The process often involves both the alleged perpetrator and the survivor sitting in the same room. For some students, this may be traumatic.
“One thing that really stuck in my mind was they chose possibly the smallest room,” Eve said. “It was in the administrative offices. We were placed as far apart as we could, but we were still probably no more than six feet apart. So I was surprised, on reflection, that they didn’t choose a room where you could have had more physical distance, which I think at that juncture, when you’re overcoming an incident like this, that could have made a big difference as well.”
JoAnna Bourain ’12 wrote a Wespeak titled “Wesleyan’s Great, Unless You Get Raped” discussing her experience sophomore year when she was raped on campus and went through the University reporting procedures. She had a similar experience during her hearing.
“After I was raped I had to go through this horrific trial where I sat feet away from the man who raped me,” Bourain wrote in an email to The Argus. “In front of my rapist and a room of strangers I had to ‘defend’ myself and prove my case.”
Warren explained that as the judicial process is currently structured, there are accommodations that can be made if the survivor does not want to be in the same room as the alleged perpetrator during the judicial hearing. The survivor can call in from another room or request for a partition to be put up between hir and the other person. She also noted that the survivor can request to take a break from the hearing at any time if it becomes overwhelming.
The parties leave the hearing room; their departures are usually staggered in time and they use different exits in order to avoid contact between the parties. If Warren serves as process advisor for a survivor, she then debriefs the survivor on the hearing and suggests scheduling a follow-up counseling appointment so that ze has the space to talk about the issue further.
Nico Vitti ’12 explained that he was repeatedly sexually harassed by a University professor and reported the incident to his class dean David Phillips in a written statement. As is typical in cases involving faculty or staff, Vitti was interviewed by Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer Sonia Mañjon and Director of Human Resources Julia Hicks as part of an investigation into the incident. Like in hearings with the administrative panel, each interview includes the reading of the survivor’s statement aloud. Vitti described the issues he had with this aspect of the procedure.
“During the interview, they started reading out loud to me from that statement and asked me questions about it, which, if you have even any basic knowledge of trauma—it’s a really bad idea,” Vitti said. “So, I asked them to stop, and they did.”
Some students expressed frustration with what they considered a convoluted judicial process.
“I think the system is designed to exhaust the person reporting to the point where they can’t advocate for themselves anymore,” Vitti said.
Based on her frustrating personal experience with the University-reporting track in 2010, Bourain advised students who are sexually assaulted to go to the MPD.
“First of all, if someone is sexually assaulted on campus do not go to Public Safety,” Bourain wrote. “You need to go to the police. You need to go to the hospital. Do not call Public Safety until you have spoken to the police. I wish someone had told me that. I had thought that going through Public Safety and through the Wesleyan channels would be easier and safer but they have no continuity and no clarity. The entire system at Wesleyan is fucked.”
In an attempt to address some of these concerns, a Wespeak written in May 2010 and signed by 536 members of the University community called for the creation of a full-time staff position that would focus on issues of sexual and gender violence, in addition to the existing SART intern position.
In the fall of 2010, a new Sexual Violence Task Force was convened to address concerns about sexual assault on campus. The Task Force issued a series of recommendations the following spring, which included the creation of a position within the Office of Behavior Health Services (now CAPS) that resulted in Warren’s hiring, increased sexual violence response training, and the creation of a team to consider the implementation of a Women’s/Gender Center at the Davison Health Center. Additionally, the Wesleyan Student Assembly issued a series of recommendations for the improvements of policies relating to sexual assault.
In April 2011, the University designated Mañjon the Title IX Coordinator, in accordance with a mandate by the U.S. Department of Education. Mañjon is responsible for ensuring that the University carries out its duties as they pertain to Title IX.
“In a nutshell, our responsibility is to make sure first of all that there’s education, that there’s a clearly delineated protocol in terms of if there is a sexual assault on campus, that victims know what their rights are,” Mañjon said. “We are mandated to, in a timely manner, investigate the alleged harassment or crime, contact the proper authorities if that’s needed, follow up with the victim, make sure that whatever course of action the victim might want to take, that we’re supportive of that, that we alert the community, so on and so forth.”
University President Michael Roth commented on the University’s efforts thus far and noted that there is still room for improvement, calling for input from the campus community.
“We’ve come a long way, but we know that more can, and must, be done,” Roth wrote in an email to The Argus. “I want to hear from students, faculty and staff about what they think we should do. I plan to hold a series of structured conversations in the fall, which I hope will result in concrete action steps to improve the campus climate.”
As an underclassman, Vitti was involved in activism focused on sexual violence and the administration’s response to sexual assault and harassment, including encouraging the creation of new positions in CAPS focused on sexual assault cases. Despite advances, he said that the process is still imperfect.
“It was pretty trippy to then go through the process that I had helped design and realize that it was still pretty terrible,” he said. “It was better than it had been before, so I was grateful for that. I was grateful that the director at CAPS, Dr. D’Andrea, has specialization in this and is fantastic, which didn’t exist when I was a freshman; we didn’t have anyone like that. But yeah, it’s still terrible.”
Ruling and Afterward
Judgments of alleged violations of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct are made using the standard of “fair preponderance of evidence presented.” According to Culliton, in 8 of the 17 sexual misconduct cases adjudicated in the past five years, the alleged perpetrator was found “responsible”; the remaining 9 accused were found “not responsible.”
According to the Hearing Sanctions subsection of the Judicial Procedures section in the Student Handbook, students can receive between 1 and 10 judicial points for a violation of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct. If a student receives or accumulates more than 10 points, “the board will likely recommend a separation from the university for a specified period of time.”
If a student accused of sexual assault or sexual misconduct is found “responsible” by the Judicial Board, the student receives between 5 and 10 points; the punishment can go up to suspension or expulsion. Five points is one of the highest minimum numbers with which a student can be charged for a violation, tied with “operating under the influence” and “hazing” and second only to participation in this spring’s Tour de Franzia, which will result in a minimum penalty of six judicial points.
Additionally, in the case in which a student is found “responsible” for sexual misconduct, according to the same section in the Handbook, “[t]he board may recommend restriction of individual access to specific university facilities, limitation of individual participation in specific university activities, or curtailment of privileges that are enjoyed by a student, so long as these restrictions are directly relevant to the violation.”
In Eve’s case in 2010, although some of the sanctions were eventually appealed, the accused student was first put on probation, ordered to perform 30 hours of community service, forbidden from attending Commencement celebrations and walking at graduation, and placed under a no-contact order.
For cases of sexual harassment or assault in which professors are involved, the sanction process is different. As Vitti’s graduation approached, he requested that the professor who reportedly harassed him not be allowed to attend Commencement services. After confronting then-Provost Rob Rosenthal, Vitti learned that the administration would not honor his request because the professor had provided a “special favor” to the University.
“Vice President Whaley told me that the general process for a complaint of harassment or discrimination against a professor is that a note will be put in the professor’s file but that because of tenure agreements professors are rarely fired on a first offense,” Vitti wrote in his Wesleying post. “I asked if my case was considered a first offense, even though the professor harassed me multiple times. He said he didn’t know.”
Vitti noted in his Wesleying post that the policy surrounding survivor notification of the outcome of an investigation into cases involving faculty and staff is vague. According to the Policy on Discrimination and Harassment, both parties will be notified “to the extent appropriate.” It also notes that “this process may not be appropriate in every circumstance and should be considered a flexible one that can be modified to suit the situation, with advance notice to all parties.”
In the case of student-student sexual misconduct, if the complainant or the accused is unhappy with the results of a hearing, ze may make an appeal to Roth. The Judicial Procedures section, Adjudication Procedures subjection of the Student Handbook states, “Either party will be provided an opportunity to appeal the decision of the administrative panel to the President” based on the following criteria: “violation of fair process,” “excessive or inappropriate sanction,” “new evidence that was not reasonably available at the time of the hearing,” or “procedural error.” Such appeals must be submitted to the President of the University in written form within five business days of the hearing decision. The President then decides the outcome of the appeal and may recommend a new hearing or alter the judgment of the case.
Eve reported that one of her biggest frustrations with the administration with regard to the judicial process was the appeal. In 2010, when her hearing took place, the administration was not required to notify survivors if the accused party chose to appeal. Without Eve’s knowledge, her assailant filed an appeal, which was subsequently granted. Since then, however, the policy has been changed: if one party files for an appeal, the other party is informed, and according to Culliton, both are given the opportunity to present new information.
Other survivors have been displeased with the University’s efforts to make them feel comfortable on campus as they went about their day-to-day lives post-hearing. Bourain expressed frustration with the University’s broad authority in cases involving sexual violence.
“The Wesleyan admin attempted to victimize me,” Bourain wrote. “They wanted me to shy away from public events, let him have free reign and make sure I police my movements. They told me to go to therapy. I decided to give the admin a hearty fuck you and to take care of myself. I decided to surround myself with friends who would support me and protect me. People who believed in me and would remind me that it wasn’t my fault. The administration and Public Safety can’t play god, the police, and the judicial system just because they have declared the United State of Wesleyan.”
Other students have been dissatisfied with Roth’s response to their complaints.
“When Jane Doe and her family sought redress from Wesleyan’s deliberate indifference by seeking an audience with President Roth, he added to the deliberate indifference by refusing to speak with them,” the Complaint and Jury Demand of the Doe case reads.
Describing his role post-hearing and in the appeals process, Roth noted that he makes an effort to meet with any student who requests to do so.
“I generally arrange to get together with any student who requests a meeting, regardless of the circumstances,” Roth wrote. “When either party in a sexual assault case appeals a ruling from the judicial board, I am the one who reviews the written appeal and issues a decision. At the appropriate time during the process, or afterwards if the student so desires, I have met with those who have made allegations or been accused of wrongdoing. I will continue to do so in the future.”
Eve reported that it was difficult to set up a meeting with Roth, both immediately after the incident and when she wanted to talk to him about the appeal.
“[Initially,] President Roth refused to meet with me, even immediately after,” Eve said. “And I started pushing. It wasn’t until I went to the head of the faculty, and I told them my story. And I started telling professors I was close to what had happened and how this wasn’t fair [that] nobody would talk to me. And that was so incredibly frustrating. It took me weeks to get a meeting with President Roth, and even when I finally did get a meeting one-on-one, he was just very condescending, very clearly wasn’t going to change his opinion—he certainly never gave me a straight answer.”
Although Roth eventually met with Eve, he didn’t meet with her parents when they were on campus for her graduation.
“And then the other thing with Roth that was particularly frustrating is that my parents tried a number of times to get in contact, calling, sending letters, and they asked if they could speak to him for like five minutes during graduation weekend—they were here for like four or five days,” she said. “And President Roth could not spare five minutes for my parents. I would have hoped that he could have squeezed in some time during that whole weekend.”
Beyond emotional ramifications, a number of the survivors interviewed found that their academic and professional careers were negatively affected as a result of their assaults or harassments and the subsequent judicial process. Bourain, Vitti, and Doe all withdrew from classes; Doe went on medical leave.
Given the small size of the University, survivors frequently can be faced with reminders of their hearings.
“I never felt comfortable at Wesleyan again,” Bourain wrote. “I used to see the people who sat through my rape ‘trial’ (I don’t even know what it is actually called) at places around campus.”
Regardless of whether or not a student chooses to report a sexual assault, ze can take advantage of the numerous resources and support groups that exist on campus for survivors. Warren explained that while no student is forced to attend therapy sessions, therapy is available to all students, and survivors are encouraged to seek counseling through CAPS to aid with the recovery process.
Since Warren was hired by the University in the fall of 2011, she has begun several peer support groups for survivors. Warren explained that, due to the importance of establishing and maintaining trust among members, all survivor support groups are closed.
“What happens over the course of the group is they really build a lot of trust,” Warren said. “That can be hard to build and can be disrupted if you’re constantly having people coming in and out of the group.”
The first support group, established by Warren in the fall of 2011, was composed of four females.
“It was really an opportunity for people to come together and connect and to heal in connection with other people,” Warren said.
In a typical meeting, Warren opens a support group by giving survivors a few minutes to transition from their daily activities to a space in which they feel comfortable discussing painful memories.
Warren checks in with each member to see how ze is doing and whether there is a particular topic ze would like to discuss. Warren then opens the group up to conversation. She explained that the topic of conversation on any particular night depends entirely on whatever is of most concern for survivors and that it may not necessarily revolve around sexual assault.
“It might be triggers that they’re experiencing,” Warren said. “It might just be stress that they’re experiencing through school. It’s really just whatever comes up.”
Warren stated that her role in the discussions is to add psychoeducational context.
“If I hear common myths, or if I hear self-blame or things like that, I’ll interject and point that out and share information,” she said.
Warren also distributes literature that she feels might be helpful and pertinent to the evening’s conversation. The group concludes with a check-out.
In addition to the first support group, Warren established several other groups, including an eight-week-long Experiences of Healing group.
“Each week, we talked about a different element of the healing process,” she explained. “We usually explore that through art. Sometimes it’s discussion. Sometimes we’ve done some movement. We’ll do that for about half an hour, and then the group opens up into a regular, open support group format.”
This semester, Warren, along with a trauma-assistive yoga teacher, began a group called “Befriending the Body: Yoga as Healing.” Between two and four survivors attend each yoga session.
“We’re really looking at recognizing the connection between trauma and the body and how, especially for sexual assault people’s bodies are where things all happened,” Warren explained. “It’s the scene of the crime in a lot of ways. It can be very difficult for people to reconnect to their bodies.”
An all-male survivor support group, begun this semester by Warren and led by Information Technology Senior Database Administrator Stephen Windsor, implements the same model used in female support groups. This semester, the group has five members. Warren explained that male survivors represent a group that is often overlooked in dialogue on sexual assault and mentioned that the creation of a gender-neutral group is being considered for next semester.
In addition to these closed groups, Warren has held several one-time workshops and meetings open to all survivors. An art workshop, held on April 27, gave survivors a space to paint, draw, and collage. Warren also organized “Mindfulness and Movement,” a retreat for survivors.
For some survivors, these channels for discussion on sexual assault aided in the healing process.
“I went to one meeting/open discussion about sexual assault and it definitely helped me recover,” Survivor A wrote. “It provided an outlet for my feelings, confusion and self-blame, and I left with a sense of support and solidarity.”
Prevention and Training
Though the University has increased its resources for survivors through CAPS, administrators also hope to improve the campus climate surrounding sexual assault. In Mañjon’s view, decreasing sexual violence will involve combating high-risk drinking.
“When you look at the sexual harassment, violence, assault that takes place, it’s more [likely] than not...always connected to overdrinking,” she said. “I think that we really need to do a better job in curtailing the drinking.”
Roth echoed Mañjon’s sentiment.
“We have to do more, and I really want to hear from students what they think that more should be,” Roth said. “I’ve never had a report of sexual violence that didn’t include alcohol or drugs, so what does one take away from that? In fact that’s an interesting question for students. It doesn’t mean that everybody who drinks commits sexual violence, but there is a pattern there that’s very disturbing. [There are also the questions of] how to raise awareness about sexual violence among men and women, that no means no, simple as that, and also for women how to protect themselves.”
However, not everyone believes that the connection between alcohol use and sexual violence is so clear-cut. According to a September 2012 Argus article titled, “Important Sexual Assault Resources on Campus,” Warren “challenged the notion that alcohol made people more susceptible to rape by explaining that such an idea allows people to distance themselves from sexual violence.”
“I think that alcohol and sexual assault are linked, but not in the traditional way that people think,” Warren explained in the article. “They’re linked in the way that alcohol is often used as a weapon. So when sexual assault happens, [it’s] not that someone was drinking excessively but that someone targeted someone that was drinking excessively.... I think it’s really important to change that dialogue. We’re looking at the offender’s actions, as opposed to the person who is the potential victim...because the offender is making the decision. Like ‘this is someone who is in a vulnerable position and I’m going to exploit that vulnerability.’”
In addition to addressing excessive alcohol use on campus, Mañjon explained that a large part of her role as Title IX coordinator is educating the community in an effort to combat sexual violence.
“[The University] is interpreting [its responsibility as] doing all that we can do to make sure that we have a safe campus, that people have the type of education and information that they need,” she said.
The University’s efforts include training for certain members of the campus community. Among those who receive training are faculty, PSafe officers, and ResLife staff.
According to the University Handbook of Policies and Procedures for Administrative Staff, Connecticut law states that “all faculty and staff members who have supervisory responsibilities are required to attend a sexual harassment prevention training program within six months of their assumption of those responsibilities. This training should include guidance regarding the investigation of sexual harassment complaints.”
According to Director of PSafe David Meyer, all PSafe officers are required to periodically participate in training on a variety of topics, including sexual assault. Although these training sessions do not occur with any official regularity, Meyer estimated that they happen roughly annually. The most recent, led by Warren, took place over spring break.
“There’s no set schedule per se, but we try to be inclusive with these things,” Meyer explained.
According to the 2012 Campus Report Card published by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, which tracks the policies that Connecticut universities have in place to handle and prevent sexual assault, Wesleyan University does not require sexual assault training for all members of Greek life, athletes, or coaches.
ResLife staff members receive twice-annual training in August and January, which includes information on how Residential Advisors (RAs) should help residents who come to them and report being sexually assaulted. According to Associate Director of ResLife Maureen Isleib, Alysha Warren led training that followed a bystander-intervention model. New staff members also participate in an emergency procedures workshop and have the opportunity to practice what they learn in simulated situations.
Head Resident James Gardner ’13 reported that, when these cases arise, RAs first make sure the resident who approaches them knows that RAs are mandatory reporters. The RA will make sure the resident feels safe and comfortable and knows the options ze has for reporting the incident if ze chooses to do so and that ze is aware of the logistics of doing a rape kit.
The RA will then file a communication report that goes to hir own Area Coordinator or the Area Coordinator on duty.
Gardner said he feels that, ultimately, ResLife staff members are well equipped to deal with cases of sexual assault when they arise.
“I mean, it’s jarring for anyone,” he said. “You can train all your life for it, and you can still be thrown out of the water by something. I think RAs are given the tools and giving the appropriate amount of material to provide that person with support and get them going in the right direction, depending on what they decide to do with the scenario. One, I think it’s hard for anyone, and two, I think we give them enough support and enough resources and information.”
Though the amount of training and support resources offered by CAPS and through student initiatives has increased in recent years, Vitti and other survivors noted that the existing administrative policies are still in need of improvement.
“It’s a pattern in the administration, not listening to students, trying to just shut them up, and giving them generalized answers to their very personal questions,” Vitti said.
Bourain noted in particular the lack of transparency and called for increased accountability on behalf of the administration and the community at large.
“That is what is so fucked up about the Wesleyan judicial process—there is no transparency and no one to be held accountable,” Bourain wrote. “I see that lack of transparency across various aspects of Wesleyan student life—from chalking to bigoted public safety practices. No one wants to be accountable for how fucked up these processes are and so they become increasingly more frustrating for the student population and more difficult for the administration to address.... I think the entire Wesleyan community needs to feel more accountable and responsible for each other’s safety.”