Policy begs question of viability

Temple’s sexual assault policy was last updated in 1992 and contains misinformaton.

Temple’s sexual assault policy was last updated in 1992 and contains misinformaton.

Senior women’s studies major Kate Moriarty first came across Temple’s sexual assault policy a year and half ago, after she attended a student conference regarding the topic.

“When I accessed Temple’s policy online, the first thing I noticed was that it was written in 1992,” Moriarty said. “I read it thoroughly all the way through, and I have several issues that I take up with it.”

Moriarty said the policy has been neither reprinted nor redistributed since 2003. Much of the information – phone numbers, contacts and ombudspersons – is outdated, she said. One of her main issues with the policy is the Presidential Oversight Committee clause.

“It says who, what, where, when and why is supposed to be monitoring this policy and making sure it’s being correctly implemented and that students are aware of their rights, responsibilities and resources,” Moriarty said.

The committee has a purpose to “review the effectiveness of the University’s policy and relevant programs and procedures,” according to the resource and policy guide on the university’s policies Web site, and is appointed by the university president. Staff, faculty and students comprise the committee.

“Two of those people mandatory to sit on the committee is, one, the co-director of the women’s studies program, which we haven’t had in eight years,” Moriarty said. “The second is that the mandatory student sitting in on the committee is the women’s studies student worker.”

Moriarty, who is the women’s studies student worker, had never heard of this committee prior to reading the guide. Temple’s Faculty Senate’s Web site had a list of committees, and the University Sexual Assault Oversight Committee was under the list of dormant committees. Members of the Faculty Senate told Moriarty that the committee has not been active in more than eight years.

Associate University Counsel Valerie Harrison confirmed that the committee hasn’t met or done work in some time.

“The Presidential Oversight Committee makes recommendations to the president as required to comply with federal and state law,” she said. “The revision of the policy would be initiated by the Office of University Counsel.”

Last month, NPR and the Center for Public Integrity published an investigation on sexual assault that found that one of five college women are sexually assaulted, an update to the one out of four statistic listed in Temple’s sexual assault and sexual harassment resource and policy guide. One of the major findings of the investigation included that colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault.

CPI reporters looked at a database of about 130 universities given federal grants to improve methods of dealing with sexual assault – two of which were Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. The database shows that even when men at one of those schools was found responsible for sexual assault, only 10 percent to 25 percent of them were expelled.

There is no record of Temple applying for one of these grants.

Assistant Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Delaware Jessica Schiffman, who has an extensive background on sexual assault, said she thought of this while working on her doctoral dissertation.

“There is very little research or data on what happens to accused students on the college campus,” she said. “Part of the question I have about the whole thing is what is the college’s responsibility.”

Schiffman, who comes from a victim-supportive perspective and background, added, “Unless we deal appropriately and humanely with perpetrators of sexual violence, we’re not going to alter the issues. We’re always going to be dealing with the after affect.

“I want to get to the beginning and stop this behavior, and in order to do that, we need to address men who are either considering [sexual assault], or don’t know they’re considering it but are considering it, and those who committed it,” she said.

Schiffman said that experts and sexual assault literature finds the vast majority of perpetrators committing acquaintance rape, sexual assault by an individual known by the victim, are treatable. This is untrue of stranger rapists, Schiffman said, because they tend to be predatory and not treatable.

She added that younger people tend to be more treatable.

“There is a lot of good reason to think that given the combination that most acquaintance rape is committed by young people, that this is a population we can reach still. And if we ignore that responsibility, I think it’s to our own detriment in the long term. And in the long term, it harms women,” Schiffman said.

When it comes to sexual assault on Main Campus, Campus Safety Services Special Services Coordinator Donna Gray said her department’s priority is dealing with the student survivor.

Temple students have the option of reporting sexual assault confidentially to Campus Safety Services, which means the survivor reports to a particular individual within the department, and only that individual knows the student’s identity.

“Quite honestly, we still encourage students to report directly to us and give us information,” Gray said. “Without that information, we’re just counting numbers, which the NPR piece dealt with.”

Responses also vary depending on the residency of the student. If the student is an on-campus resident, administration must provide for the student’s need to switch housing, classes or both.

From there, Gray or other Campus Safety Services personnel and Tuttleman’s Sexual Assault Counseling and Education Coordinators Michael Hanowitz and Jaquline Russo-Strait work to meet the needs of the student survivor, including giving the student the option of reporting and seeking prosecution if the perpetrator is known, facilitating a transportation to Temple Episcopal Hospital for a rape kit depending on the severity of the situation and, specific to the Sexual Assault Counseling and Education unit, providing mental health care for the survivor.

“We act more as a case manager … we try to help them deal with the acute stress, the mental help stress, which is not the post-traumatic stress,” Hanowitz said. “We’re trying to prevent post-traumatic stress, so we’re dealing in the acute phase of the trauma.”

This depends on the circumstances of the situation, Hanowtiz said. It could range from being held against one’s will, to one experiencing this feeling under the influence of substances.

The case, if perpetrated by another student, is referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, under Senior Associate Dean of Students Andrea Caporale Seiss. Responses vary, depending on the case’s severity, she said. When it comes to the attention of the Dean of Students office, an interim suspension team may be established.

“If it was a serious case and it’s deemed that there’s a threat to the community, this team might recommend that an immediate interim suspension takes place, which means the student is immediately kicked off the campus, pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearing,” Caporale Seiss said. “University housing may remove that student from university housing, pending the outcome of the hearing.”

The actual hearing is processed whether or not the survivor wants it to be, with the proceeding continuing even if a survivor backs out. Should that happen the survivor is not forced to be present. SCCS works to get cases processed as quickly as possible.

If students are not expelled, they are almost always sent through SACE, but this is not a mandatory sanction in the code of conduct.

“Colleges are ill-equipped to handle cases of sexual assault,” the NPR/CPI findings said. “Most of the time, alcohol is involved. Local prosecutors are reluctant to take these cases, so they often fall to campus judicial systems to sort through clashing claims of whether the sex was consensual or forced.”

Harrison said this finding goes toward acquaintance rape cases, and that the language of the finding isn’t clear and not accurate of Philadelphia.

“There’s not enough specificity in the language they are using here,” she said. “They may be talking about acquaintance rape cases, which many people don’t like to use the term or make that distinction, but I doubt this is referring to all cases and all local prosecutors.”

Hanowitz added that to his knowledge, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit will investigate any case and that even if the victim used drugs during the incident, he or she will not be charged. This goes for SCCS as well, Caporale Seiss said.

“The NPR series suggest there’s either a criminal process or student judicial process,” Harrison added, “Our experience is that they are generally parallel criminal processes for most violations of the code of conduct that also constitute crimes, including theft or anything else [along those lines].”

Questions about the un-updated resource and policy guide on sexual assault still remain. The sexual harassment policy was updated in February.

“The [sexual assault] policy is part of periodic review for necessary updating to make sure it’s complying with various laws,” Harrison said.

Health Education Awareness Resource Team Coordinator Dina Stonberg said “a president- and provost-appointed task force that worked for eight to 12 months, looked at how mental health, interpersonal violence and [alcohol and other drugs] interrelate as far as policy, research, programs and services.

“We had three separate subcommittees look at these three issues from three different lights to see what we were doing well, what we should try that would be helpful, and then policies that need to be created or reviewed,” Stonberg said. “We named a whole bunch of policies in the final report, which is not public yet, sitting on the provosts desk. Specifically, one of them was the sexual assault policy.”

Harrison added the sexual assault policy was mentioned among others for review. She said the review of it doesn’t necessarily mean the policy will be changed if it’s a solid policy.

“It’s not a bad policy,” Hanowitz said.

Administrators acknowledged that the resource information was out-of-date, including the list of ombudspersons, individuals chosen by the provost to help students and campus members navigate the university’s processes for complaints of discrimination or harassment. When mentioned that some students didn’t know the ombudsperson, Tracey Hamilton, assistant director for the Office of Equal Opportunity, said the program was discussed at new student and employee orientations and could be found on the office’s Web site.

Moriarty was also concerned about the inclusion of men in the sexual assault policy and resource guide. The policy has no statistics about male survivors. The National Center for Victims of Crime found 3 percent of American men experienced rape in their lives – a total of 2.7 million men.

Stonberg said the sexual assault presentation at orientations, most of which uses non-gender-specific language, addresses male assault survivors.

Moriarty said it is a liability for the school to have this un-updated policy.

“I have all the correct information already lined-up should the [University Counsel] want it,” she said. “By updating this policy, it’s step one of Temple taking a proactive role in furthering keeping their students safe, informed and educated.”

Josh Fernandez can be reached at josh@temple.edu.

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