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Sexual assault reported in Campion

Jake Rauscher / The Greyhound

This past weekend, Loyola University students learned of a reported sexual assault on campus. Early Saturday morning, a student reported his or her assault, which occurred in Campion Tower. The victim is reportedly not seriously injured and followed the protocol of getting a free Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE), commonly known as a “rape kit,” following the assault.

According to government-reported statistics, one in five women will face sexual assault at some point in their lives, with nearly 40% of female victims reporting first being raped between the ages 18-24. If this statistic were applied to the context of Loyola’s undergraduate population, around 470 of the 2,374 females enrolled already have experienced or will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault by the time they graduate.

In Loyola’s 2012 Clery Report—the most recent available at this time—the numbers of reported forcible sexual assaults on campus remain low, with only two in 2012 and one in 2011. It is important to remember that the number reported is not always representative of the actual number of incidents that have occurred.

At Loyola, if the incident does not occur on campus property, it will not be recorded as an on-campus assault, meaning that an incident at a bar or an off-campus residence will not be listed on Loyola’s Clery Report. A secondary concern is that an individual who finds him or herself a victim often does not come forward and report the incident at the time it occurred.

While there is no time restriction in Maryland when it comes to reporting a sexual offence, the longer an individual waits to report the incident, the more difficult taking legal action becomes, should he or she choose to do so. This becomes especially time-sensitive if the victim underwent a SAFE, as the evidence gathered is held for only one year.

Since January, lawmakers and student activists have been extremely vocal in the reporting and investigation of instances of sexual assault on campuses. Inciting this call to action was a report disclosing the names of 76 colleges and universities—both public and private, including Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State—under federal investigation for Title IX violations in the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults on campus.

While the definition of “sexual assault” remains hazy to both students and in legal terms, a recent campaign promoting “only yes means yes” is aiming to change that. California passed a bill, now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval, which calls for a standard of “affirmative consent.”

Verbal consent is not a requisite in affirmative consent, according to the bill’s language. It states:

Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

The bill mirrors what some 800 schools already have in place, often labeled as an “effective consent” policy, regarding sexual conduct. The policies more clearly explain who may be a victim and who may be a perpetrator by focusing on the interaction at the time of the reported assault, not any previous relationships or other factors.

Loyola follows a similar policy, defining consent as “an affirmative indication of a voluntary agreement to engage in the particular sexual act or conduct in question.” Further, the University’s 2014-2015 Community Standards goes on to define what constitutes sexual assault:

It is the intent of this policy to provide notice that any unconsented sexual conduct, whether by a stranger or an acquaintance of the victim, is prohibited…Consent cannot be obtained through the use of force, threat, or intimidation. Consent cannot be given by someone who is not able to effectively communicate or to understand the nature of the conduct being engaged in as a result of having consumed drugs or alcohol or for any other reason. Silence on the part of an individual does not constitute his or her consent.

Regarding the nationwide campus policies of “effective consent,” Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women said, “Affirmative consent policies can also ensure that those involved in disciplinary proceedings no longer ask survivors stereotypical and problematic questions like: ‘Did you fight back?’ or ‘Have you had a relationship with the accused?’ or ‘What were you wearing?'”

The Community Standards goes on to elaborate on the possible responses the student can take after being sexually assaulted. “If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual misconduct on University property, at a University-sponsored event or by a member of the University community, you are encouraged to report the incident to Loyola,” the Standards say. “Reports of sexual misconduct can be made to any University administrator or member of the faculty or to campus police.” Off-campus incidents can be reported, but may be directed to take action with Baltimore City Police.

Dr. Sheilah Shaw Horton, Loyola’s vice president for student development and dean of students, said, “We want to create a culture of reporting so that students are able to get the help they need to recover from an assault, and to make the community aware so that others can avoid such incidents.”

According to the Standards, there are “no standard sanctions” for the violations of the sexual misconduct policy. Each incident faces a unique adjuration process, which includes a specially trained panel, “comprised of one faculty member, one administrator and the Director of Student Life or his/her designee.”

From there, the procedure follows closely to that of a court hearing, allowing for two character witnesses for each the complainant and the alleged offender, with no limit placed on fact witnesses.

A caveat in the Standards’ language explains, if the alleged offender is found in violation of the sexual misconduct policy, “drug or alcohol use by the offender is not a defense to a charge of sexual misconduct and will not be considered a mitigating factor in assessing an appropriate sanction.”

Horton said, “Alcohol is almost always involved in these situations, so avoiding close, intimate interactions while under the influence is important.”

Once a decision is made by the panel, both parties are made aware, each with the option to appeal.

The person of interest in this weekend’s reported incident in Campion—also a Loyola student—will receive a no-contact directive while the University investigates the incident.

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Sexual assault reported in Campion