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4 Out of 5 Victims Don’t Report Sexual Assault. Can Christian Schools Do Higher?

Solely two Anderson College college students have filed stories on sexual violence or harassment thus far this 12 months, in keeping with Title IX coordinator Dianne King.

That quantity may appear encouraging, however King is definitely frightened about it. Simply because somebody doesn’t report one thing doesn’t imply it didn’t occur.

Anderson is a personal liberal arts school affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Conference. The college, like all schools and universities that obtain federal funding, is required to implement Title IX, a federal civil rights legislation prohibiting sex-based discrimination. That features monitoring sexual violence and trying to forestall it.

That’s a problem for each school and college. And a few Christian faculties might inadvertently discourage reporting, with insurance policies that prohibit all alcohol, drug use, and sexual exercise outdoors of marriage. That may depart coordinators like King second-guessing their very own knowledge.

“There are college students who’re having intercourse. We all know that, and that there are those that misbehave in a sexual method, whether or not it’s sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or interpersonal violence,” King informed CT. “Now we have these issues right here.”

There may be some proof that sexual assault is slightly less likely at spiritual schools, although numbers are exhausting to come back by. Total, greater than 26 p.c of feminine undergraduates expertise rape or sexual assault, in keeping with statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nationwide Community (RAINN). However the identical knowledge reveals that solely about 1 out of each 5 feminine college students who’re assaulted report it to authorities—and the reporting share is even decrease among the many 7 p.c of male undergraduates who’re raped or assaulted.

Some victims blame themselves for what occurred and assume others will too. For a lot of, the rapid destructive penalties—from social stigma to punishment for different issues that had been taking place—outweigh the distant risk of justice.

One option to elevate reporting charges, in keeping with the US Division of Schooling, is to supply amnesty for scholar handbook violations that occurred alongside the extra critical crimes of sexual violence. Anderson has formally written this into its coverage. Although the varsity doesn’t allow college students to make use of medication or alcohol, it doesn’t punish folks in the event that they disclose these violations within the technique of reporting sexual violence.

“A sexual assault is way more critical than a celebration the place the ingesting will get somewhat out of hand,” mentioned King, who can also be the varsity’s affiliate vice chairman for scholar improvement and dean of scholar success. “We’d like to have the ability to examine the assault above all the pieces else. That’s what Title IX requires, and we’re dedicated to doing that.”

What Christian schools like Anderson don’t need to do is create a tradition that daunts reporting, even inadvertently. That may add to the traumatic expertise and be certain that sexual violence goes unchecked.

Final summer season, 12 girls sued Liberty College for fostering an unsafe campus setting and mishandling Title IX complaints.

An investigation by ProPublica discovered the Lynchburg, Virginia, college based by Jerry Falwell Sr. discouraged and dismissed scholar stories of sexual assault. Former college students informed ProPublica that when folks reported assault or rape, the varsity threatened to punish them for violations of “The Liberty Means,” together with being alone with a person.

Picture: Infograph by Christianity In the present day / Supply: RAINN

Liberty settled the lawsuit in Could. The phrases of the settlement are protected by non-disclosure agreements. The college introduced that it “had already undertaken a slate of initiatives” to higher defend girls on campus. Liberty additionally mentioned it could revise its amnesty coverage to make clear that folks reporting sexual violence shouldn’t be punished.

Brigham Younger College (BYU), affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, noticed a 400 p.c enhance in Title IX stories when it reformed its insurance policies and procedures 5 years in the past. The variety of stories on the Provo, Utah, college has steadily elevated since then. BYU Title IX coordinator Tiffany Turley informed CT that doesn’t sign a rise in incidents however, extra probably, a rise in how snug college students really feel reporting.

“In reality, prior to now most of our stories got here from obligatory campus reporters” resembling professors and faculty nurses, Turley mentioned. “However now the vast majority of our stories come instantly from college students themselves, which reveals the belief college students are gaining in our workplace.”

A current campus local weather survey presents an advanced image, nonetheless. Practically 8 out of 10 college students mentioned they thought BYU was doing a superb job of caring for victims of sexual violence. However among the many 538 girls and 95 males who mentioned they skilled some type of undesirable sexual contact within the earlier 12 months, solely 27 p.c reported it to an authority. The scholars had been extra prone to belief a pal (61%) or roommate (42%) than the Title IX workplace (3%) or the varsity’s counseling service (5%).

The Mormon college, like evangelical schools and universities, continues to concentrate on elevating consciousness about what the Title IX workplace does and search for methods to encourage extra folks to report.

Turley believes that not punishing the individuals who report sexual violence has been one vital approach of accelerating belief. That doesn’t imply that BYU or evangelical faculties don’t care concerning the code of conduct, although. They consider these insurance policies are good for college students and might present some safety.

“I respect working at a faculty that has such a robust, faith-based code of conduct,” Turley mentioned. “Whereas I reiterate that sexual assault/misconduct isn’t the sufferer’s fault, I can anecdotally say that we’d probably not see not less than 75 p.c of the stories we do if folks adopted the Honor Code.”

Not less than half of sexual assaults amongst all demographics contain alcohol consumption by one or each events, in keeping with a current report from the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. One research discovered {that a} coaching program focusing on extreme ingesting amongst school college students resulted in a 47 p.c discount in incidents of rape.

That’s one cause Gardner-Webb College, an evangelical school in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, has a dry campus, prohibiting all alcohol use. It additionally carried out an amnesty coverage final fall to encourage extra reporting, interim Title IX coordinator Lesley Villarose informed CT. The college revised its Title IX insurance policies and labored with a legislation agency to create a coaching program for individuals who might function case investigators and advisers.

In her interim capability, Villarose launched what she referred to as a “Purple Flag Marketing campaign” to offer college students extra details about sexual violence. Villarose noticed an analogous program have a constructive affect at Averett College, in Danville, Virginia. She and her staff posted flyers across the college, hosted coaching classes, and put data on social media.

“We definitely hit the tip of the iceberg with it, however . . . we acquired lots of fantastic suggestions from our college students,” she mentioned.

The faculty additionally began utilizing a smartphone app that sends out emergency notifications and permits folks to report sexual violence confidentially. If stories of sexual violence go up, Villarose will think about the work profitable.

When folks do report, it’s form of a reduction, whilst schools goal to additionally cut back the variety of assaults happening on their campuses. Title IX coordinators say they’re honored to have the ability to assist folks—they usually agonize over the scholars who need assistance however haven’t discovered a option to ask for it.

“I don’t suppose it’s ever sufficient,” mentioned King at Anderson, “however we do all that

we are able to.”

Hannah McClellan is a reporter in North Carolina.

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