The Dean’s Office released information regarding sexual misconduct during the 2014-2015 academic year, although the 15 cases reported likely underestimate the number of incidents that took place.
Last year, the College received 10 reports of sexual assault, one of dating violence, three of stalking and one of retaliation, harmful action taken against someone who has filed a complaint. In the three years before last, 14 reports of assault were received in 2013-2014, six in 2012-2013 and 13 in 2011-2012. Whether or not more reports means more incidents actually happened or a higher reporting rate is unclear.
“Reporting and prevalence are both functions of awareness and prevention programming,” Meg Bossong, director of sexual assault prevention and awareness, said. “Our expectation is that right now, prevalence exceeds reporting by a significant, but not precisely knowable, amount. As we do more work to both respond to and prevent sexual violence, we hope to see reporting rise very close to the level of prevalence, and then both ultimately drop off.”
According to Dean of the College Sarah Bolton, only five to 10 percent of assaults at the College are reported, which implies between 100 and 200 assaults a year if 10 are reported. Last year, the College conducted an anonymous survey about sexual assault, which can be used to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
“I would use EPHCASA data [The EPH Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault Campus Climate Survey],” Bolton said. “You can use that to extrapolate how many incidents happen in a year – 45 to 50 a year and that’s assaults, not including dating violence and stalking,” Bolton said.
In that survey, seven percent of respondents reported being sexually assaulted in their time at the College. This corresponds to roughly 150 victims of sexual assault enrolled in the College at the time of the survey, given enrollment of 2100. Of participants who reported experiencing any form of sexual misconduct while a student at the College, eight percent said that the incident did not take place at Williams. This suggests that approximately 135 students enrolled at the time were sexually assaulted on or near campus. It is not clear how this figure translates to the number of assaults in an academic year. The EPHCASA survey took place in February, so all four currently enrolled class years had collectively spent about 16 semesters at the College (one for the first year class, three for the sophomore class, etc.). By this data, each class year is expected to have had about 8. 5 members experience sexual assault at the College in one semester (135/16). In a full academic year, this translates to 68 instances of sexual assault (8.5 * 2 semesters* 4 class years). This is an unscientific approach that does not take into consideration response bias, individuals experiencing assault more than once, when assaults happen, assaults happening over Winter Study, students studying away or taking time off, how long graduate students have been at the college, different definitions of assault and other complicating factors. Dean Bolton cautioned that it is very difficult to infer a yearly number of assaults from the EPHCASA data.
By either estimate, the College’s number of assaults reported to the College last year, which is average for the last four years in which the Dean’s Office has released that information, is closer to 15-20 percent of all instances rather than five to 10 percent. On the other hand, only a small fraction of stalking and dating violence/abuse cases are being reported.
“There are a few reasons for this,” Bossong said. “Chief among them is that our concerted work on dating violence and stalking is younger than our sexual violence work, and so we have more ground to make up in terms of awareness levels.”
Of EPHCASA respondents, 13 percent reported having been stalked, which implies 125 students stalked at the College each year by the same method. Six percent of respondents said they were in a controlling or abusive relationship, implying 57.5 instances of dating violence/abuse on or near campus each year.
Another way estimates of sexual assault figures are created is from the 2012 American College Health Association survey, in which 4.4 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men experienced sexual penetration without consent in the last 12 months. That equates to approximately 49 individuals assaulted in a year.
Nationally, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey and a 2007 Justice Department-funded survey found that 20 percent of women experience sexual assault during their time in college. If this were true at the College, the average graduating class of women would be expected to have a little over 100 victims of sexual assault. This implies over 25 new victims of sexual assault every class year in each academic year, or over 100 instances a year.
Last year, the College was able to investigate 13 of 15 cases because the accused party was still affiliated with the College. Of the 10 sexual assault cases, three individuals reporting incidents chose to take part in investigation through the College, which resulted in two findings of responsibility. Two of the three stalking cases were investigated and the College found responsibility in one case. The incidence of retaliation went through College investigation and yielded a finding of responsibility. The four findings resulted in one expulsion and three suspensions for terms ranging from one semester to two years. An accused student is serving an interim suspension pending the completion of an investigation. Of the seven students who reported assaults but chose not to participate in the disciplinary process, five worked with the Dean’s Office to increase their well-being on campus.
Only one student of 43 who have reported sexual assault cases in the past four years has brought a case forward through the police and district attorney’s offices. Nationally, the Justice Department-funded survey found that 12 percent of college students who experience rape report it to law enforcement. If this were true at Williams, five students of the 43 would have been expected to report the assault to law enforcement. Annually, one would expect six to 12 students to report sexual assault to law enforcement, if there are between 50 and 100 incidents of sexual assault. Though the reports from the Dean’s Office do not include how many incidents are reported to the police but do not make it to the district attorney’s office, Bolton says this could be a considerable number.
“There have been several that have gone to court in different instances but have not made it to trial. So if they go to a grand jury and not moved forward or if the DA doesn’t take them they won’t go to trial. So that’s the difference with the campus process. Every concern that we hear goes through the full hearing process all the way to the conclusion,” Bolton said.
Reported rapes are prosecuted between eight and 37 percent of the time. Assuming 50 to 100 assaults at the College a year and a 12 percent reporting rate, one would expect between two and 18 incidents to reach prosecution.