Story by Bailee Wicks
The last year and a half has been full of movements and controversies that have made reporting sexual misconduct of any kind more widely viewed and debated on. These include #MeToo, #HimToo, the Kavanaugh and Nassar cases and various comments made by President Trump’s administration.
Arguably, no other place has felt the ramifications of sexual misconduct more than college campuses.
PULSE reached out to Central’s administration to get their views on the rise in rape reports on our campus and the resources available to those who have and are suffering from sexual abuse.
National Collegiate Statistics
The truth is that sexual assault and more specifically rape happens on all college campuses.
“[Rape] is the most underreported crime,” says CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch.
Actually, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault and 20 to 25 percent of college women are victims of forced sex during their time in college.
That is one in four to five women on campus being forcibly raped.
Although it is stereotyped to be a women’s problem, 15 percent of all college-aged men are victims of forced sex during their time in college as well.
“Usually drugs and alcohol are involved in these reports,” says Executive Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Joseph Bryant.
However, rape reports have risen in the last two years and there are a few theories as to why.
Since April 2017, 252 celebrities, politicians, CEOs and other male public figures have been accused of sexual misconduct, according to Vox.
As cases unfold in the media, a divide has been made, either siding with the accused/perpetrator or with the victims/survivors of sexual misconduct and assault.
The divide was displayed during the recent Kavanaugh case. Kavanaugh was running for Supreme Court Justice and accusations were made that he had fondled Dr. Christine Blasey Ford 35 years ago.
The report seemed to lose validity in some of the public’s eyes due to how long it took Ford to report.
President Trump then stated, “It is a very scary time for boys in America,” which sparked more controversy, separating men and women who advocate for women’s rights and an opposing party who argues that the reports instill fear in men of all ages to be wrongfully accused of sexual assault or misconduct. However, statistics say otherwise.
Bryant adds, “In the last 11 years, I can’t think of one that was a sexual assault that came back as a false report [on campus]. It could be that we had insufficient evidence to prosecute, but I am unaware of a case where we determined a sexual assault as a false statement.”
Even though the recent cases have caused a divide, the message of reporting is still getting out to the public and could be one of the reasons why more reports are occurring in the country and on college campuses.
Rise in Reports on Campus
Central’s forced rapes increased from 12 to 25 in the last year according to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, but the number doubling is not necessarily a bad thing.
The Clery Report within the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report is made up of all incidents that happen year round on any of campus’ property including Brooklane Village.
“There’s no connection to what time of the year [rapes] happen,” says Berthon-Koch. “These numbers are for the year, which also includes times where our students are not here so if we have issues at camps or over the summer, those issues also count so it may not be directly tied to all our students, but it is something that happened on our campus.”
Another theory to why the number of forced rape reports are rising is because of the resources available to students.
“We believe that the number of rapes themselves are not increasing,” says Kristin Perry, the violence response coordinator at the Wellness Center. “We think more people are feeling comfortable with reporting because of the resources and outreach we have available to students on campus.”
Central Washington University President James Gaudino agrees that exposure to the issue can help people feel less isolated.
“I can imagine the national movements described are giving students a little more confidence so they feel like ‘I’m not alone here’ and ‘I’m not the only one’ and are stepping forward and finding these resources available to them,” adds Gaudino.
The idea is that the more people who are reporting, the less would be unreported over time.
“It is the fact that it is doubling, but I hope that now instead of 90 percent going unreported, it goes down to 80 percent unreported and continues dwindling down,” says Gaudino.
Evidence to Report
One of the stereotypes and misconceptions of sexual assault or misconduct is that significant evidence is needed to report.
“No evidence is needed to report. However, in an investigation, there will be some needed to continue in the disciplinary and criminal processes,” says Bryant. “There’s two different standards of evidences.”
The school and police do their own separate investigations and need different amounts of evidence to take action.
In the legal process through the campus police, the evidence needs to withstand in a court if escalated to that point; whereas the school sets forth an investigation based on the likelihood that the case is true and how to help the survivors of the assault from there.
A recent misconduct and harassment case involved Matt Manweller, a political science professor and Republican state representative. There were reports made on his behalf multiple times, but the evidence was not as blatant and severe as dismissing a professor.
“There are two processes: there is a process where we do an investigation internally and a due process that safeguards the accused,” explains Gaudino. “Those two things often battle each other. There’s an outrage because there’s belief here, but there is a due process, employment law and contract law; you have to have a case to overcome those thresholds which are a burden to prove.”
The first time sources came forth was years after the incident, they wanted to remain anonymous and not be a part of the investigation and their story lacked specificity.
“If a woman waits five or six years to complain and doesn’t come forward with name ranking serial numbers and can’t validate them being in the class, that report we have embedded in the system becomes difficult to move forward in a disciplinary action and even in a criminal fashion,” says Gaudino.
However, the case changed when more people felt comfortable with coming forward right after the incidents.
“It is more acceptable for people to come forward. We also have made significant efforts to make it comfortable and not as scary for people to be coming forward with these type of things,” adds Perry.
The university has assistance and resources for anyone who has had previous experience or is currently dealing with the repercussions of sexual assault and misconduct.
“We are here for all students,” says Perry.
What To Do If It Happens To You:
First, get to a place where you feel safe. That can be your home, a friend’s house, a doctor's office or even a public place so you don’t feel alone. Then, it is important to review all options when it comes to sexual assaults.
Reporting on Campus:
You can report in many different ways on the Central campus. You can fill out a Behavior of Concern Report. That report then goes to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. From there you will meet with someone to talk about what happened, then go over options for your safety. After that, the school will hold case hearings that the victim can decide if he or she wants to attend, and the school will make a decision on the case and let the victim know the outcomes.
Another option would be to go straight to the Wellness Center and tell them everything so they can file a report with the victim’s story, which takes out the necessity of attending a meeting with Student Rights and Responsibilities. Sometimes it is difficult enough to tell the story once. The written report, Morse notes, means that “students don’t have to go through the story again with another person, so they don’t feel re-victimized.”
It is worth mentioning that no matter if you go to the police first, Central will receive the report after the police investigation and conduct its own investigation. An investigation through Central is entirely different than one done by police. If a person looks 51 percent guilty, they will be held responsible at Central, but with a police investigation, the alleged perpetrator is innocent until proven guilty.
If you talk about your case with a faculty or staff member, they are required to report it.
Reporting to the Police:
When reporting to police, a victim needs to know the difference between Ellensburg Police and Central Police. If they go to Ellensburg Police first, the Central Police do receive the report if the victim is a student. Both police departments hold their own investigations into whether there is probable cause or enough evidence for an arrest. Investigations can last months, so it can be a lengthy process.
Reporting Anonymously to either Central or the Police:
By reporting anonymously, the victim’s name would not be in the report, but the perpetrator’s would be. This option, although comforting to some, does not give the victim all the information about further hearings and the final outcome.
Not to Report at all:
Sexual assaults are one of the most under-reported crimes. Even if a victim decides not to report the incident, they can still receive free counseling and help from both the Wellness Center and the Student Medical and Counseling Clinic.
When choosing to not report at all, the victim cannot mention the perpetrator’s name to faculty or staff members, or else it has to be reported due to safety concerns.