Crimes face two outlets

From the entrance to Campus Safety Services headquarters near the corner of 12th Street and Montgomery Avenue, you can see the back of the Student Center, lurking behind new construction. The red brick is dotted with windows, one of them belonging to the Student Code of Conduct office. Standing at CSS, it’s difficult to pick out.

There’s no indication that these offices are connected. And yet, they both handle a critical component of university life; they’re the two organizations on Temple’s campus that formally handle the crisis of campus sexual assault.

Dean of Students Stephanie Ives, who oversees  the Student Code of Conduct, and Charlie Leone, deputy director of CSS, sit at the helm of two distinctly different processes. Leone handles the criminal side of things, which includes formal reporting of sexual assault incidents, formal charges and criminal court proceedings. Ives heads the more informal, but parallel process of SCC, which handles internal investigations of sexual assault referrals committed by students.

Ives and Leone sit in different offices, but information between the two flows freely. With sexual assaults involving students, Leone said, Campus Safety Services will always inform SCC of the incidents, regardless of whether students intend to press charges or carry through referrals. Similarly, Student Code of Conduct and university authorities are required by law to inform Campus Safety Services about any sexual assaults that are reported to them.

“Whenever we get a student involved with a sexual assault, we send it over to SCC,” Leone said, adding that this communication works both ways. “If [SCC has] a sexual assault, we’re going to be made aware of it, definitely. We may not know academic dishonesty and things like that, but a sexual assault, I guarantee we’re going to be made aware of it.”

Although communication flows freely between the two offices, some numbers are not reported to the public. Unless the crime occurs within Clery geography, the numbers seldom make it on to public forums.

Crimes that occur within this federally-mandated Clery geography, which roughly stretches from 10th to 16th streets, between Cecil B. Moore and Susquehanna avenues, are available in an annual public report published by CSS, regardless of whether charges or referrals are ever filed. However, statistics on crimes that occur outside those boundaries, like booming off-campus neighborhoods, do not have to be published in university reports, regardless of whether the allegations are processed criminally, through SCC or both.

With so many numbers coming from different offices, where can students get an accurate picture of how present the risk of sexual assault is on Temple’s campus? A maze of federal and state regulations, and the overlap of Student Code of Conduct and Campus Safety information, makes for no easy answer.

Records provided by CSS show that, during the course of the 2011-12 academic year, 10 rape allegations were reported to Campus Safety Services. Only one of these incidents did not involve a Temple student. Three of the remaining nine occurred within federally mandated Clery geography and were made publicly available in the university’s annual crime report under each incident’s respective calendar year. Of the remaining six incidents, five occurred just outside Clery geography in the off-campus neighborhood near Main Campus.

Out of all 10 incidents recorded by CSS, four merited Student Code of Conduct referrals and were processed through Student Code of Conduct proceedings.

SCC, which functions as a separate entity from CSS, processed 12 sexual assault referrals in the 2011-12 school year. That number, however, cannot be taken at face value, said Dean of Students Stephanie Ives.

“Charge No. 4 of the Student Conduct Code, which is about sexual violence, sexual assault, is very broad,” Ives said in an interview. “It encompasses everything from an unwanted touch that is sexual in nature, through the spectrum of behaviors that would conclude in violent penetration. So it is a very broad charge.”

The cross-referencing of CSS data, as previously examined, indicates that four of these 12 were forcible rape. The remaining eight incidents handled through SCC could be anything from forcible fondling to exposure of genitalia, as detailed in the 20-page Student Conduct Code.

Further diluting this glimpse into campus sexual assault is that the number of cases processed through SCC – as well as the total number of cases reported to CSS – fall massively short of national statistics: U.S. Department of Justice studies have put the number as high as one-in-four college women being victims of rape or attempted rape.

This wide discrepancy brings to light the epidemic of underreporting, Ives said.

“There are various studies that found that one-in-four to one-in-five women will experience some form of sexual violence during their college career. The concern to me is the part about underreporting,” Ives said. “We have so many students that are experiencing a behavior that does fall under that Student Conduct Code as a violation. And yet, it’s not being reported…Student Conduct can only process what gets referred to it.”

Leone, on the CSS side, agreed that underreporting leaves a wide gap between national statistics and actual reporting of sexual assault.

“That’s one of the largest underreported crimes out there,” he said.

Despite underreporting and the murky legislation that leaves many numbers unpublished, Ives and Leone both said that the No. 1 priority when dealing with campus sexual assault is to facilitate and support victims.

“[There are] all kinds of really, very difficult challenges to why sexual violence is so underreported,” Ives said. “For me, the bottom line would be, that when a victim reports, that that student feels supported, that they understand the process, that they feel supported throughout the process [and] that it’s a fair process.”

Ali Watkins can be reached at ali.watkins@temple.edu.  

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