Occidental College recently released an outside audit of its sexual misconduct policies, which includes at least one statistic that may help inform how we think about sexual assault on college campuses.
Attorneys Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, who conducted the review, analysed all formal complaints of non-consensual sexual intercourse or sexual contact at Occidental from 2011-12 and 2012-13 — a total of 17 cases. According to the audit, “All seventeen cases we reviewed involved non-stranger sexual assault, meaning that the complainant and respondent were known to one another.”
In other words, these were not scenarios where a “stranger jumped out of the bushes.” In all 17 cases, the alleged victims and assailants knew each other.
Of the 14 “non-consensual sexual intercourse” complaints, nine of the respondents were found responsible and five were found not responsible. Six of the students found responsible were expelled.
All three complaints of “non-consensual sexual contact” were resolved via admission by the respondent.
According to Smith and Gomez, this statistic is in keeping with current understanding of college sexual assault (emphasis ours):
At the outset, we note that the nature of the incidents reported at Occidental is consistent with the known dynamics of sexual and gender-based harassment and violence in the campus setting. All seventeen cases we reviewed involved non-stranger sexual assault, meaning that the complainant and respondent were known to one another. While this in no way diminishes the impact or effect of sexual violence on a complainant, it highlights the need for continued education about the ways in which non-stranger sexual assault may impact the identification of misconduct, reporting of misconduct, continued participation in campus processes and education regarding risk reduction and prevention.
One aspect of the 17 reports that may have been misleading is the gender breakdown of the involved parties — all of the complainants were female and the respondents were male. As Smith and Gomez write, “We recognise that these cases do not provide an accurate view of the spectrum of individuals who may be affected by sexual misconduct at Occidental.”
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