Sarah Irby, Editor in Chief~
When the first woman came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein, it sparked a chain reaction of people publicizing their experiences and exposing their aggressors. With the current national climate, it is increasingly vital for college students to know their options when it comes to reporting sexual misconduct.
The Interpersonal Misconduct Policy at Lynchburg College is in accordance with Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. The policy “prohibits all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, coercion, complicity, exploitation and retaliation.”
When it comes to reporting prohibited conduct, there are multiple options, said Amanda McGovern, the Title IX coordinator at LC. The easiest way to report an incident is through McGovern herself or to campus security. While another faculty member may be confided in, the majority are “responsible employees,” who are required to report information to McGovern. The policy states that only employees of the health and counseling center and the spiritual life center are permitted to maintain confidentiality. Claimants may also notify local law enforcement authorities.
McGovern stated that there are a variety of ways to address issues, based on what occurred. There are both formal and informal courses of action. Students can also request anonymity or that no disciplinary action be taken against the “respondent.” McGovern said that individuals are able to hold confidential conversations with on-campus ministers or counselors if they do not wish the school to take action.
McGovern stressed the importance of reporting an incident, even if the student does not intend to pursue further action. Many individuals are hesitant to report acts of sexual misconduct due to various fears, including retaliation, which is strictly prohibited under the policy. In addition, the policy states that LC “will not take disciplinary action for the personal use of drugs or alcohol when such personal use is disclosed by someone who reports prohibited conduct or assists an investigation.” There is no deadline for reporting prohibited conduct to the Title IX coordinator, and McGovern stated that they are always ready to address a problem.
The coordinator and the Office of Equity and Inclusion work to prevent prohibited conduct through programming as well as training. McGovern stated that they work to push out information for students. Some ways through which this is achieved is tabling in Drysdale, covering the information with first-year students and even partnering with Peer Advocates for Campus Education (PACE) for a condom trick or treat event. Students are also encouraged to complete an educational module on interpersonal misconduct, whereas faculty are required to complete it annually, as well as attend in-person training every two years.
When it comes to safety, McGovern said there are things happening daily that some people may not even consider. For example, campus security officers provide escorts for students who are uncomfortable walking alone, especially at night. With the addition of the first-year parking lot, there are often 40 to 50 escorts a night. Security is also in charge of overseeing the LiveSafe app, which allows students to report unusual behavior and includes a tool that allows a friend or family member to virtually “walk” with an individual until they safely reach their destination.
In addition to Title IX regulations, the Interpersonal Misconduct Policy complies with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and the Clery Act, which requires institutions to disclose information regarding crime on and around their campuses. However, the numbers only reflect what is reported by students; there is no way to know the actual statistics. Figure 1 shows the 2015 reported cases of rape and fondling among LC and two other area institutions – Liberty University and Randolph College – while Figure 2 displays the number of Clery-reported criminal offenses spanning a decade. Figure 3 depicts the number of VAWA offenses reported at LC in 2015.
Some instances of sexual misconduct can be avoided if consent is obtained. The Interpersonal Misconduct Policy defines consent as “an informed, voluntary and affirmative choice to permit or participate in sexual activity demonstrated through clear and mutually understandable words and/or actions.” It is important to note that consent can be revoked at any time, and consent on one occasion does not automatically imply consent of the same activity on another occasion.
McGovern’s advice to students is to know what consent is and make sure they are obtaining it. “You should not engage in any type of activity for which you do not have consent … the burden is on the initiator of the sexual activity to get permission to do whatever it is they want to do.” Consent does not exist if force or coercion are used, nor if the individual is incapacitated, silent or nonresistant.
These situations often boil down to proper communication among individuals and throughout society. “We have increased avoidance behavior and increased objectification of women in the media … when you objectify someone for whatever reason it is more difficult to treat them with the respect human beings deserve … combine narcissism with objectification of women and harassment is sure to increase. Now, we have to create awareness and change this pattern,” stated Jimmy Roux, a communication studies professor at LC.
Although men are affected, women are disproportionately the victims of sexual misconduct. This semester alone, LC’s daily crime log has reported 12 instances of sexual misconduct, including stalking, fondling, harassing and rape, along with one report of dating violence. McGovern stated: “I can say that in almost all of the cases that are reported to me, whether it’s rape, fondling, dating violence or stalking, alcohol is almost always involved in some way.”
For more information, to view the Interpersonal Misconduct Policy or to make a report, visit the Office of Equity and Inclusion homepage or contact Amanda McGovern at firstname.lastname@example.org.