Four cases of sexual offenses were reported in the Elon University Annual Security Report for 2014. This is the most recent count of the total number of sexual assault cases on campus, off campus, in residential areas and on public property.
The Annual Security Report also indicated that the number of sex offenses reported had doubled each year from 2012 to 2014.
These statistics, and any initial impressions that might be drawn from them, do not reflect the reality of sexual assault at Elon University, much less on all universities in the United States.
Dan Faill, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said the doubling of reports may be related to a growing awareness about the issue.
“The more education you do on sexual misconduct, the more the reports increase because people see it as a problem,” Faill said. “While it’s super unfortunate that we have reports to begin with, that’s actually a good sign because then people who see a problem are reporting the problem.”
Faill is one of many mandatory assault reporters at Elon University, along with deans, human resources staff, department administrators, Residence Life employees, Campus Safety and Security officials and student conduct administrators. These individuals are required to report any incident that violates Title IX to the university’s Title IX officer.
Though Faill said he hasn’t been approached by any students reporting incidents of sexual assault, he explained he would inform students that their story is subject to being reported before they disclosed any information.
Dissecting the reporting process
The Jeanne Clery Act of 1990 specifically stated colleges that receive funding from the federal government must publicly report sexual assault crimes that occur on their campuses.
In 2013, President Barack Obama signed an amendment to the Clery Act called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act. Until this point, universities were not required to report certain cases of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The SAVE Act changed that and required universities to offer sexual assault education, awareness programs and more “prompt, fair, and impartial” disciplinary proceedings for survivors and their assaulters.
Clark explained that the Clery Act doesn’t require universities to report sexual assault if it did not occur on campus, on on-campus property or on public property. By only requiring cases from certain locations to be reported, the Clery Act results in seemingly low records for sexual assault cases at Elon and other universities.
“It’s frustrating because it’s really misleading,” Clark said. “We as a university acknowledge that, but that’s just the limitations of that particular report.”
For three years, Clark has been one of several confidential advocates on Elon’s campus who welcome survivors or friends of survivors of sexual assault to talk with them. The confidential advocates are not allowed to report any accounts that they hear unless the source wants them to, it is a case of child sexual abuse or the sexual assaulter is planning on hurting someone else.
Elon has a community of organizations on campus that address sexual assault. Safeline is an anonymous hotline (336-278-3333) that allows students to call a confidential responder for support regarding dating violence, sexual assault, discrimination, stalking and similar issues.
SPARKS (Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility, Knowledge and Success) is an organization that promotes a general healthy lifestyle, but also focuses on sexual assault as a major issue worth addressing.
EFFECT (Elon Feminists for Equality, Change and Transformation) offers membership to students of any gender with the aim to protect any person’s sexuality and security in their sex lives.
Last year, SPACE (Students Promoting Awareness, Change and Empowerment) was started by senior Madeline Wise and Laurel Wiebe ’15 and had its first active semester last spring. There is little advertisement for this organization on Elon’s website, but its reputation is growing through collaborations with SPARKS and EFFECT for events like screenings of “The Mask You Live In,” “The Hunting Ground” and the March Against Victim Blaming.
The goal of SPACE is to provide a safe space for students to talk and help each other in dealing with experiences regarding sexual assault.
“I think that it’s important for me to say that, as the president of SPACE, I’m not trying to intend to get more people to report,” Wise said. “I’m just trying to be a support system and say, ‘This happened to you. I’m here to listen to you, and whatever you decide to do, I support that decision.’”
Looking to the future
Sexual assault awareness campaigns and organizations on Elon’s campus, student involvement is essential to addressing this serious issue.
The leaders of these organizations will eventually graduate and depend on their younger peers to continually evaluate Elon’s productivity in addressing sexual assault.
As the second half of her senior year comes to a close, Wise is eager to see what her legacy of working with SPACE will leave and how U.S. society in general will progress.
“This is an exciting time in history,” Wise said. “Just now, sexual assault has become a very pervasive issue in society, and I’m lucky to have been able to do something while I’m here. I hope that we can keep that going because I think differences are really starting to be made.”
Though he has only been working at Elon for a year, Faill trusts Elon will effectively address the issue of sexual assault.
“No campus has this figured out,” Faill said. “There isn’t a premier, start-to-finish, perfect answer to this. Elon is a place that prides itself on being the next evolution of many items and I would hope that this would be one of the areas that Elon wants to tackle and not only tackle, but become a nationwide leader on how it’s dealt with effectively.”
Clark also sees a bright future and is proud of Elon’s history with informing its students of sexual assault and catering to survivors.
“I think that we’re ahead of the curve in many ways. By no means do we have it all figured out,” Clark said. “This is a university that isn’t sticking its head in the sand about [sexual assault]. It’s really trying to send a message to Elon students that we take this seriously and this is something that we’re not going to tolerate on this campus.”