University sexual violence policies ‘have room to grow’

Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith

A total of 16 sex offense cases were reported in 2014 in K-State’s 2015 Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, which covers K-State’s Manhattan campus.

Not all campus sexual violence crimes go reported to the authorities, however, according to Jenna Tripodi, Center for Advocacy, Response and Education coordinator and advocate-educator, who said that in 2014, the CARE office served about 76 survivors.

K-State’s policy regarding crimes of sexual violence states that “Kansas State University will maintain academic, housing and work environments that are free of discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment and sexual violence), retaliation and stalking.”

According to Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, violators of K-State’s sexual assault policy are to be removed from the university or expelled. However, Bosco said he personally wants all sexual violence perpetrators to receive jail time.

“If I had my druthers, I’d like to be able to have law enforcement involved in addition to any on-campus judicial proceedings, which would result in expulsion if a student is found in violation of our sexual violence policies,” Bosco said. “So in my long history, over four decades now of addressing sexual assaults, as complicated as things are, I do favor criminal prosecution in addition to whatever we can adjudicate on the campus.”

While K-State Counseling Services serves as a confidential resource for survivors of sexual violence and professionals at the CARE office are “designated as confidential respondents” for survivors as well, Bosco said, all other K-State employees are required by federal law to report sexual assault cases to the university’s Title IX coordinator, Travis Gill, director of the Office of Institutional Equity.

“It depends on the nature of the incident,” Bosco said. “We immediately report all sexual assaults to Title IX. The investigation begins with the Title IX coordinator unless it’s confidentially reported to the CARE office. If it’s nonconfidential, we’re reporting immediately the incident to the Title IX officer, and Travis Gill will decide how to proceed. The investigation starts there.”

The 2015 college campus sexual violence documentary “The Hunting Ground” noted that at well-known universities, such as Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles, the ratios of sanctions to sexual violence crime reports were little to none, according to Jessica Haymaker, CARE office coordinator and advocate-educator.

Haymaker said that because only 2-6 sexual violence crime reports are false — six being a high estimate — she believes schools need to work toward performing more thorough investigations of reported sexual violence crimes.

“All systems need to be continuously evaluated for how they can improve their services to victims — the criminal justice system, the university system, whatever system we’re discussing — needs to be continuously evaluated for how it’s currently serving survivors and how it could be better serving survivors,” Haymaker said.

For university policies regarding sexual violence crimes to be more effective, students should be sure their voices are heard during the original composition or amendment process of said policies, Haymaker said.

“Any policy for the university shouldn’t be made without students,” Haymaker said. “This is a policy that affects students. It’s for students, faculty and staff, so it should have been given input by students, faculty and staff.”

According to Tripodi, many institutions’ sexual violence policies “have room to grow.” Tripodi said that when composing a policy regarding acts of sexual violence, words should be carefully chosen so as not to “parallel them to the criminal justice system,” as a university’s policy is not meant to accomplish the same thing as the criminal justice system.

“I think we need to look at our policies and not always try to parallel them to the criminal justice system because they’re not the same thing, and sometimes when we, as a society, do that, we fall short of serving survivors,” Tripodi said.

Serving sexual violence survivors in the best possible ways is a priority in the Office of Student Life, Bosco said.

“It’s important that my students know that we’re there for them, that we’re accessible and want to do everything that we can to support all of my students, particularly when they’ve been sexually assaulted,” Bosco said. “We provide an enormous amount of tender loving care, from listening to responding to any academic personal challenges that our students may encounter during a very difficult time. That’s first and foremost.”

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.