Even at Central Penn, but awareness is power.
By Sarayuth Pinthong
Knightly News Reporter
Sexual assault is very common on our nation’s college campuses.
Unfortunately, Central Penn is not exempt, but reports of sexual assault and sexual misconduct at Central Penn are rare.
Even though such reports are rare at Central Penn, with the help of Megan Peterson, Title IX officer and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator, students can receive the knowledge that could prevent sexual assault, and possibly save the life of their friends and themselves.
Well developed policy
“Central Penn has an extensive sexual assault policy,” Peterson said. “In our sexual misconduct policy, we go through definitions of different types of sexual misconduct, what constitutes the action and the process that we would go through if a person would bring forward a complaint of sexual misconduct.”
According to Peterson, depending on the type of complaint and how the individual wants it to be handled, sometimes individuals come forward for only resources and support. Sometimes someone comes forward to report to ask for an investigation and hearing, or an informal resolution.
“We have a process for each, depending on how the complainant is comfortable moving forward,” Peterson said. “Our goal is to never force a complainant to handle their case in a certain way if they’re not comfortable.”
Unfortunately, there is an exception. According to Peterson, if a person were to be involved with a violent assault, Central Penn has an obligation to take action for the safety of the campus community.
About our campus
In 2016, Central Penn College had four reports of sexual misconduct, Peterson said. Compared to the amount of sexual assaults occurring on college campuses nationwide, four is a very low number.
2017 had fewer reports.
“If we are strictly talking about sexual assault/misconduct and not other things falling under the Title IX umbrella (harassment, dating violence, etc.), then there were two reported cases of sexual misconduct in 2017, and none so far in 2018,” Peterson said in an email on Feb. 2.
The college publishes an annual security report made available on the college’s website. Students can view the reported numbers of different types of crimes or sexual misconduct. Individuals can use the report, along with other resources on campus, to be vigilant during their everyday life and better recognize the warning signs of sexual misconduct.
The 2016 report lists two reported violations, under the heading of “Sex Offenses, Forcible (Rape, Sodomy, Sexual Assault w/object and Fondling).” The other two misconduct reports may have been incidents that did not have to be included in the report. Disclosure of reported campus crimes investigated must be reported to the campus community and the public, according to the state’s Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
“One in four women are likely to be a victim of sexual misconduct while they’re a student,” Peterson said. “Seventeen percent of men are also likely to be a victim of sexual assault,” she said.
Being aware of sexual assault and the possibility that it could happen can benefit the Central Penn community.
“Alcohol is the number one drug of choice during sexual assault,” Peterson said.
On Jan. 24, the Central Penn College Diversity Committee and the Title IX Office held a discussion forum in the Capital BlueCross Theatre called “Food for Thought: An open, facilitated conversation about sexual harassment,” with two outside experts on the topic – one from the Carlisle YWCA and one from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape . Chief Diversity Officer Romeo Azondekon and Peterson also participated, with Peterson moderating. Dave Baker, Central Penn’s retention officer and athletics director, took Azondekon’s seat when Azondekon had to depart the panel discussion for a previous engagement.
A universal responsibility
The responsibility of sexual-assault prevention falls on everyone, experts say.
“If you don’t know that sexual assault is a risk, then you don’t know to be mindful and protective of yourself and your friends,” Peterson said. “From an awareness standpoint, we want to bring that issue to light. The more people that talk about sexual assault, the more people feel comfortable to address it.”
According to research, there are only two reasons sexual assault doesn’t happen. One, the person decided not to not move forward with the assault, or two, a bystander decided to intervene.
“If we’re not raising awareness and not having these conversations telling people what red flags to look for,” Peterson said, “the likelihood of knowing what to do and how to intervene is drastically lower than having an informed population.”
Peterson said changes to campus sexual-assault investigation standards from a preponderance of evidence to reasonable doubt that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has discussed implementing since her confirmation last year haven’t been put in place yet, and it isn’t known when they might be.
For more information, contact Peterson at (717)-728-2398 or email@example.com.
This episode of the podcast is also available at our SoundCloud page during the month of February at: https://soundcloud.com/user-511685837/episode-49-megan-cline-and-megan-peterson
To comment on this story or to suggest a story, contact TheKnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.
Edited by media club co-adviser Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi, who provided some update reporting.