Sexual Misconduct Policy Reform at Haverford College
Haverford College is a small liberal arts college that prides itself on its community, Quaker roots, and commitment to social justice. Upon matriculation in 2008, however, I was dismayed by what I perceived to be a lack of resources for survivors of sexual assault* on campus as well as the broader absence of conversation about these issues. In the winter of 2009, two other Haverford women and I started a student-run support group called Survivors of Assault and Rape (SOAR). Since then, a small group of committed Haverford students has embarked on a quest to instigate rape and sexual assault policy reform. Although we have faced frustrating bureaucratic barriers, what has at times been perceived as resistance and a lack of support on the part of the campus administration, Haverford has substantially altered its rape and sexual assault policies in the last three years. This paper is the continuation of a number of pieces that I have written about rape and sexual assault in colleges (see “Consent is Sexy at Haverford? Not Yet”). I hope that this paper may serve as a resource for other college students hoping to change the rape and sexual assault policies on their campuses.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, 3 percent of all college women will be raped in any given 9-month academic year. While that statistic may at first seem small, it means that at Haverford College with a population of 1200 students, an estimated 18 women will be raped each year. Haverford is mandated by the Clery Act to report crime statistics, including sex offenses. According to Haverford College’s 2011 Security & Fire Safety Report (page 6), there were reported 4 forcible sex offenses in 2008, 7 forcible sex offenses in 2009, and 8 forcible sex offenses in 2010. According to that same study done by the Department of Justice, between 80 and 90 percent of the survivors know the perpetrators. A prior survey conducted by Ms. magazine and funded by the National Institute for Mental Health found that 1 in 4 women will be raped during their time at college, but only 27 percent of these women identified themselves as rape victims. 1 in 12 of the men surveyed admitted to having committed an act that meets the legal definition of rape. These statistics can be found in Robin Warshaw’s 1988 book, “I Never Called it Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape,” parts of which is available online through Google Books. Unfortunately, much of this data assumes that women are victims and men are perpetrators; I did not find any gender-neutral surveys that looked at rates of sexual assault among college students more generally.
Sexual assault is the only crime where victims are questioned about their intentions. As a result of this and other factors, sexual assaults are rarely reported to the police or campus authorities. Haverford College acknowledges that sexual assault is underreported in its sexual misconduct policy statement. Haverford’s 2011 Fire & Security Safety Report cites the three most common reasons for students failing to come forward to report a sexual assault:
- “Not clear of the legal definition for [sic] sexual assault and rape.
- Unaware of the resources available on and off campus.
- Unaware of victim’s basic rights.”
However, a conversation I had with Haverford’s Title IX Coordinator, Dean Steve Watter, points to another reason. He acknowledges that “an unfortunate unintended consequence” of Title IX is that because it mandates investigation following the report of a sexual assault, students may be more reluctant to report sexual assaults:
“We want students to be supported and have places to go, and unless they go to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), which is bound by the professional ethical code of confidentiality, we’re required by law to have Nora Nelle [the Associate Director of Safety and Security] conduct an investigation. Haverford is required to investigate any claims [of sexual assault] to the greatest extent possible. It changes the locus of control. Our goal in every policy change over the years has been to enable the survivor the greatest control over the process as possible, especially because before, the control was taken away from them. We’re trying to restore some part of that through the process…While in the government’s view, Title IX has the potential to make Haverford a safer campus, in doing so it holds the potential – which we’ve already seen – that students might be less likely to come forward. We must balance the survivor’s control with Title IX compliance. This is diametrically opposed to our goals and those of the Office for Civil Rights. It’s an unfortunate unintended consequence.” (Source: Author’s interview with Dean and Title IX Coordinator Steve Watter, 12/8/11).
Dean Watter also acknowledged that perpetrators of sexual assault are repeat offenders, and so the college wants to protect against the odds that perpetrators will re-offend. A recent article in the New York Times cites a 1987 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence which found that of 126 admitted rapists, they had committed 907 rapes involving 882 different victims.
Yet another problem with reporting rape and sexual assault is the lack of a uniform definition. In its Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the Federal Bureau of Investigation currently uses a definition that has not been updated since 1929, defining rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.” This particular definition is problematic for a number of reasons; namely because it is not gender neutral, does not mention the threat of force or coercion, and implies that only heterosexual sex may be rape. Many states and local police departments have adopted their own updated, broader, more comprehensive definitions of rape. However, when their definition differs from the national standard, their statistics are not included in the federal UCR. As a result, the UCR is severely flawed: not only are sexual assaults underreported by their very nature, they are also underreported because of federal guidelines.
There is currently a push to change the legal definition of rape to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” A recent blog post by Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat Congresswoman from California, highlights how the change in definition will affect policy. She states, “this deficient data contributes to misleading conclusions about the incidence of rape with serious consequences to the tools we need to protect and assist victims.” In Chicago, for example, all 1,400 documented rapes in 2010 were excluded from the UCR. This problem with defining sexual assault contributes not only to underreporting, but also perpetuates the silence that shrouds these issues.
Sexual misconduct at Haverford College has been handled in a variety of ways since the college went coed in 1980. Originally, reports of sexual assault were dealt with through a Dean’s Panel, in which college administrators took testimonies, held a trial, and reached conclusions without external student involvement. In the early 1990s, a group of students felt that, according to Dean Watter, the Dean’s Panels were a “black hole.” They organized and successfully changed the college’s policies so that a Joint Panel of administrators and students would be involved in sexual misconduct cases. Explains Dean Watter, the Joint Panel was in place for about ten years, “and in the early part of the last decade, students had another meeting and decided it was time to give another look at what we do and how we do it. At the time students felt strongly that it should be a Dean’s Panel; that it would be best for students not to be involved. So since I’ve been here the policies have changed twice, from a Dean’s Panel to a Joint Panel to a Dean’s Panel. And it could change again…we’re open to doing what’s in the best interest of the students.”
In the spring of 2010, a letter from the parents of a Haverford student circulated around the parents’ listserv, and was eventually posted on Haverford’s Go! Boards, an online forum for members of the Haverford Community. The letter in its almost-original form can be found here, though some sections were redacted by Students’ Council. To briefly summarize the situation, in the fall of 2009 a Haverford sophomore was raped by another Haverford student. When she brought the assault to the attention of the college, they convened a Dean’s Panel. On the day of the panel, the survivor brought her friend and the assailant brought his father [redacted from letter], a lawyer. The college abruptly dissolved the Dean’s Panel and changed it to mediation. Nearly two weeks later when the mediation took place, the dean eventually departed, leaving the survivor and her perpetrator to work things out. The accused wrote up an agreement, threatening to sue the survivor for over one million dollars [redacted from letter] if she did not sign it. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is now involved in the case. An update to the situation entitled “Institutional Memory” was written by the student and posted on the “Consent is Sexy” blog on December 10th, 2011.
In response to student outrage over these events, Haverford made significant changes to its rape and sexual assault policies for the fall of 2010 (to read the college’s policies prior to these changes, see the 2009 Security & Fire Safety Report). The college hired two attorneys from the law firm Saul Ewing to assess its policies relating to sexual misconduct and ensure its compliance with Title IX. As a result, the college updated the sexual misconduct investigation and Dean’s Panel procedures. It created a Sexual Misconduct website, defining violations and terms, as well as an explicit statement on sexual harassment. It also changed its reporting and confidentiality to fully comply with Title IX. At a campus-wide meeting in the spring of 2010, the new Dean of the College, Martha Denney, encouraged any students interested in revising Haverford’s rape and sexual assault policies to contact her and be part of a “working group.”
Haverford College prides itself on student-self governance, and approximately ten students spent many hours that spring putting together a list of policy recommendations. An abbreviated replication of that document is as follows:
- Implement mandatory, universal, and continuous rape and sexual assault prevention efforts for all first year and transfer students
- Create staff position – Gender Education Advisor – modeled after Swarthmore College
- Establish a sexual assault advisory board comprised of staff, faculty and students
- Such a group would be involved in the policy reform process, ensure involvement of all aspects of the college community, and also increase the much-needed transparency and accountability throughout the process
- Reevaluate role of Title IX Coordinator on campus
- Review Haverford’s posted official definitions of rape and sexual assault
- Create a “plain-language” definition to make it more accessible to students
- Give all incoming and transfer students a handbook, separate from the general student handbook each year, that outlines the specific actions they can take in case of a sexual assault as well as the subsequent procedures, including
- Police Report
- Health Services
- Dean’s Panel
- The Women’s Center
- Student Assistants Hotline
- Make such information available and easily accessible on the Haverford College website
- Eliminate mediation as a potential course of action for the complainant and the defendant
- Provide rape and sexual assault prevention training for all Quaker Bouncers
- Provide rape and sexual assault prevention training for all Customs Program leaders
- Seek feedback from students who have followed Haverford’s current procedures
- Establish procedures for academic accommodation for survivors in accordance with Title IX guidelines
Some of these policy recommendations have been implemented. During freshman orientation for the class of 2015, Haverford brought a group from Bowdoin College to perform a skit called Speak About It that addresses issues of rape, sexual assault, consent, and relationships. Dean Steve Watter was appointed the new Title IX Coordinator. The college updated its definitions of sexual misconduct and published extensive information on its website, including Dean’s Panel guidelines. Mediation is no longer listed as an acceptable means of addressing claims of sexual misconduct. An advisory board was created, but does not meet regularly and has not accomplished very much. Although there is “The Circle” of first responders, Haverford has yet to create one institution, like a Gender Education Office (Swarthmore College), that will comprehensively address sexual misconduct on campus, from education to first response to student support groups.
In December of 2010, several students involved with SOAR initiated a campaign called “Consent is Sexy” to raise awareness about consent and sexual assault. They posted 750 fliers, each with a different message, around Haverford’s campus:
- Dear Haverford, Consent is sexy. Love, SOAR
- Consent. Just Do It.
- When you asked if you could kiss me, I loved it.*
- Sexual assault can happen in public. Ask me if I want to dance.
- What’s scarier than the stranger in a dark alley? The friend in your bedroom who won’t take no for an answer.
- Just because you said you’re sorry, doesn’t mean you didn’t rape me.
- My skirt may be short, my top may be low, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go.
- I had trust, concern, and respect for the person who assaulted me.
- Just because I’m wearing a hot outfit, doesn’t make me hot for you.
- Sexual assault. Not just a woman’s issue.*
- Hearing you say yes really turns me on.
- My erection ≄ My consent
- Don’t be afraid, I’m not made of glass, but get my permission before touching my ass.
- Don’t tell me that I want it. Ask me how much.
- I’m a victim of your language choice. I’m a survivor of my sexual assault.
- If I won’t say “yes,” I’ll never say “YES, YES, OH GOD YES!”
- Rape is not just an academic discussion to me.
- One fish, two fish, red fish, keep your penis to yourself.
- Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and if I want your vagina I’ll ask for it.
- You signed the Honor Code, but you still assaulted me.
- If you see something, say something. Be an active bystander.
- Scholar. Athlete. Artist. Rapist. What are your extracurriculars?
- YES! YES! YES! Real consent is enthusiastic
- I was raped at Haverford. Let’s talk about it.
- I see you at the DC, and I know you assaulted me. Do you?
- I ♥ consensual sex!
The campaign sparked many different reactions on Haverford’s campus: shock, outrage, support. Many of the posters were defaced. One reading “Consent. Just do it.” was changed to read, “No Consent? Just do it.” and posted in the common room of a senior dorm. Another poster, reading “My skirt may be short, my top may be low, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go” was defaced on the 4th tier of the library when someone attached this image to it (a quote by comedian Dave Chappelle: “The girl says “Oh uh-uh, wait a minute! Wait a minute! Just because I’m dressed this way does not make me a whore!” Which is true. Gentlemen, that is true. Just because they dress a certain way doesn’t mean they are a certain way. Don’t ever forget it. But ladies, you must understand that is fucking confusing. It just is. Now that would be like me, Dave Chappelle, the comedian, walking down the street in a cop uniform. Somebody might run up on me, saying, “Oh, thank God. Officer, help us! Come on. They’re over here. Help us!” “Oh-hoh! Just because I’m dressed this way does not make me a police officer!” See what I mean? All right, ladies, fine. You are not a whore. But you are wearing a whore’s uniform.”) Chalk outside of the athletic center that first read, “RAPE HAPPENS HERE” was changed to say “RAP HAPPENS HERE” and, once corrected, defaced once again to read “GRAPES HAPPEN THERE à” with an arrow to a dining center.
Interim President Joanne Creighton wrote an email to the community after concerned members of SOAR contacted her following these incidents. She replied, “It has come to my attention that several messages posted as part of a sexual misconduct awareness campaign were vandalized in a way that at the least trivializes sexual assault and at worst seems to promote it. It is difficult to understand these actions in light of the values articulated in the preamble to our Honor Code… I hope that those responsible for this defacement will take ownership of their actions. Meanwhile, the Deans, the staff of the Women's Center and I are eager to do all we can to make our sexual misconduct policies and procedures responsible and effective. Please reach out to us --- and to student leadership -- with both your concerns and your constructive ideas.”
While Haverford College has taken important strides towards improving its sexual misconduct policies, more must be done (see our petition in order to understand our more recent demands). Swarthmore College, an institution that is part of the Tri-College Consortium along with Haverford and Bryn Mawr, has a Gender Education Office comprised of the Gender Education Advisor, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team (SMART), and Swat Survivors, a student-led support group. Karen Henry is their Gender Education Advisor and holds a full-time position within the Dean’s office. Haverford should appoint a similar position; this person could serve as the Title IX Coordinator, Director of the Women’s Center, sexual misconduct first responder, SOAR point person, and work with Health Services, Safety and Security, and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). This person must be accessible, open, approachable, willing to fight to survivors’ rights, and well-known to students on campus. SMART is similar to Haverford’s Circle and would be the “first responder group,” comprised of individuals from the Dean’s Office, faculty, staff, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and student representatives. Swarthmore also has a student group called Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), which organizes education efforts on campus.
Haverford College must guarantee permanent funding for sexual assault prevention and education programs. Speak About It is a group that Haverford has brought to campus in the past; their skit is written and performed entirely by college students and recent alumni. It addresses a variety of sexual experiences, including assault, but also discusses bystander intervention and consent in funny, provocative, and sensitive ways. The skit can be tailed to be unique to Haverford, and the group offers both a freshman orientation skit and a mid-year performance. Their blog post from December 8th, 2011, features Haverford College (it is entitled “Policy Changes at Haverford College”).
Step Up! is a program at the University of Arizona that provides bystander education, which empowers all students to act as agents in the quest to prevent sexual misconduct (and also relates to issues besides sexual assault, such as bullying). A number of resources are available on their website, as well as PDF handouts and suggestions for starting a Step Up! campaign on your campus (see their YouTube video to get an idea of the issues they address). They also provide a comprehensive resource library.
The Movement, a North Carolina State University (NCSU) initiative, is a semester-long course that teaches students about sexual and relationship violence and stalking; these students then go on to facilitate workshops all over campus. A benefit of The Movement is that the group is institutionalized, since it’s a continuing course that trains new students once a year. It’s part of the Women’s Center and the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity, and thus receives support and guidance from NCSU’s administration. The previously mentioned study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice found that while 84 percent of schools offer confidential reporting, only 46 percent offer anonymous reporting. The anonymous report form on The Movement’s website allows survivors to report assaults without fear of consequences (for underage drinking, for example, or if the survivor does not want to participate in an investigation of the claim).
So, what advice would I give to students trying to effect policy change at their colleges? What have I learned? My involvement with efforts to change rape and sexual assault policy at Haverford College have taught me that the cliché (widely attributed to Margaret Mead) is, to some extent, true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” It took only a small group of concerned individuals – students, faculty, staff, and administrators – working together to effect policy change. While this is an ongoing process, Haverford has made significant, substantial strides within the past few years. The frustration with the college’s policies and perceived resistance on the part of the administration comes from the lack of organizations and institutions that can facilitate and channel these demands, not from a lack of support. Therefore, when pushing for institutional change, it’s vital to work within the bureaucracy in order to facilitate communication and achieve the objectives. Do not assume enemies; identify your allies. Visible, controversial campaigns to raise awareness about sexual assault cause outrage, but the shock value is crucial; the push back from opponents is well worth it because of the campus-wide conversations that are generated as a result. Media attention is not always beneficial. In fact, sometimes it is easier to generate policy change without the media’s involvement – if possible, keep the administration on your side. Be constructive; help the administration understand how they can help you, what role they can play, and what your demands are. It’s important to thank your supporters, but also to keep pushing, (respond to emails!), and never stop questioning authority. When in doubt, contact powerful resources (Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), Security on Campus, the Center for Public Integrity, the Office for Civil Rights).
I hope that the experiences of student organizers at Haverford College will motivate students on other campuses to evaluate their sexual misconduct policies and advocate for the necessary revisions. In addition to working with the administration, however, I am certain that education efforts must be a part of any campaign. Despite the concerns that have been voiced in this piece regarding survivors’ reluctance to report sexual assaults, we must break the silence. Reporting an assault does not necessarily entail a “loss of control;” in fact, to “come out” as a survivor of sexual assault can be incredibly empowering. I firmly believe that survivors must be given the agency and opportunity to make the decisions that are best for them in any given moment, including if that choice is not to report an assault or to report it anonymously. In order to change rape culture and effect policy change, however, we must begin to speak out about our experiences with rape and sexual assault.
-Juliana Morgan-Trostle, Haverford College class of 2012
*Note: Because rape is a kind of sexual assault, more often than not I use the broader term “sexual assault.”
Note: This paper, because of its nature as a public posting online, includes numerous links to websites. Some of these more specific sources are listed here; others are simply direct links to main web pages.
Brody, Jane E. “The Twice-Victimized of Sexual Assault.” The New York Times. 12 Dec 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/health/the-twice-victimized-of-sexual-assault.html?_r=2&src=rechp
Karjane, Heather M., Bonnie S. Fisher, and Francis T. Cullen. “Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities are Doing About It.” U.S. Department of Justice.
Kilpatrick, Dean G. “Rape and Sexual Assault.” National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. 2000. http://www.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/sa.shtml
Roybal-Allard, Lucille. “Redefining Rape.” The Hill. 5 Dec 2011. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/197245-redefining-rape-
Warshaw, Robin. “I Never Called it Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape.” New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1988.