Two additional date rape cases alleged on campus

Hayley Wynn Staff Writer

Two more alleged sexual assaults were reported to the College last week, bringing the total to five in the past two months. One was a recent incident, while the other occurred last June.

Further details concerning the assaults have not been released, as “the survivors have not given us a formal report that would allow for an investigation,” Dean Roseman said. Such a report would involve “going on the record with a dean or campus safety to describe the details of the incident so we may investigate.”

Until the victim takes such a step, however, their identity is not disclosed. “Due to the confidential nature of these reports, names are not used. Each incident reported to the Security Office is identified by a number. . . The students remain anonymous throughout the process until they decide to move forward with an investigation,” said Jean Thorndike, director of Campus Safety. Upon issuing a formal complaint, the incident would enter the disciplinary procedures of the College.

In a scenario similar to the one involving the two recent cases, in which a formal response is not filed through the health center, Security, the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) or if a student chooses to come forward to a dean, the “College lets the community know,” Roseman said. “The College shares the information with the local police, as we are required to do whenever there is an allegation of criminal activity and the assault is reported as part of our annual report on crime on campus.” However, the Dean’s Office cannot take action and are not informed of the identities of the involved parties.

The two most recent incidents were brought to the student body’s attention after an all-campus e-mail was sent to the campus by Roseman and Thorndike. “Historically, we always see an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults after awareness around the issue of sexual assault is increased,” Roseman said. “The students said that the letter from Thorndike and I played a role in causing them to come forward.” Another e-mail was sent to the campus yesterday detailing the most recent incidents.

“While it is incredibly sad and heartbreaking to experience an increase in reporting, the other way to look at it is that it is good that students feel empowered or a moral imperative to make known what has happened to them,” Roseman said, in response to the trend created by such notification. “It is very important for the community as a whole to know that sexual assaults happen on this campus; they occur on every campus and in society at large.

“Statistics range from one in three to one in five women and one in ten men being victims of a sexual assault. Only by being very public about it can we increase awareness and hopefully alter behavior.”

Donna Denelli-Hess, director of Health Education and advisor to the student run Rape and Sexual Assault Hotline, further explained this reaction. “Oftentimes survivors who didn’t think they would want to talk to someone or report the incident to someone find strength in the fact that others have come forward. They think ‘If she has, so can I’.”

The largest obstacle in combating sexual assault can be getting students to come forward about them in the first place, Roseman said. “It is one of my greatest frustrations that students are reluctant to disclose what happened to them and who was involved. It is not uncommon, not just among college students, but again, within larger society, to not wish to name the assailant.

“As you can imagine, in a small community like Williams it becomes very complicated very quickly, particularly since most of the time the survivor and the assailant are at the very least, acquaintances.”

Hess described some of the other reasons students can be reluctant to come forward; “They don’t think anything will happen to the perpetrator, they find it hard to define what happened to them as rape, they know they were raped but don’t want to get the guy in trouble, their friends have discouraged them, they are afraid of the fallout or retaliation,” among others.

Besides notifying the campus of such events, the College hopes its current efforts to combat sexual assaults will persist. “We are going to continue doing what we have always done. Do educational programs, let the community know that sexual assaults occur on campus, and consult with experts in the field to make sure that we are using the best practices in how we support and counsel our students.”