Loyola University saw a 109 percent increase in reports of gender-based misconduct in the 2016-17 academic year compared to the year prior.
Loyola’s Title IX office, which handles gender-based discrimination and violence, received 213 reports of gender-based misconduct in the 2016-17 academic year (6/1/2016 – 5/31/17), according to Jessica Landis, Loyola’s Title IX deputy coordinator for students. There were 102 reports in the 2015-16 academic year.
Landis didn’t say how many of these reports involved sexual assault.
As of Nov. 8, there have been reports of 124 cases of gender-based misconduct since June 1 of this year, according to Landis. Comparatively, there were 87 reports during this time frame in 2016.
Gender-based misconduct includes incidents of discrimination based on sexual orientation, actual or perceived sex, gender expression or identity, pregnancy or parenting status, dating and domestic violence, non-consensual sexual contact or penetration, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation or stalking, according to Landis. Loyola’s Title IX office has separate deputy coordinators handling these types of cases for students, athletics and faculty and staff.
Incidents reported to the Title IX office don’t necessarily occur at Loyola or during a student’s time at the university.
Students can report gender-based misconduct to confidential resources including the Wellness Center, Loyola’s Sexual Assault Advocacy Line (773-494-3810) or pastoral counselors. If a student reports an incident to a non-confidential faculty or staff member, the hired personnel is required to notify Loyola, according to the Title IX website. Landis said the majority of reports come from faculty or staff members reporting on the behalf of students.
Of last year’s 213 reports, 74 incidents were reported to have been perpetrated by a Loyola student, according to Landis. Of these, 15 resulted in a formal complaint, compared to nine formal complaints in the 2015-16 school year. Formal complaints result in a grievance process, in which cases are investigated by the university to determine the responsibility or lack thereof of the accused.
The grievance process formerly involved a hearing board, but was changed for this academic year to streamline the process. Instead, one of 10 investigators handles each formal case.vv
Landis didn’t disclose how many of those 15 formal complaints resulted in disciplinary action, though a student recently told The Phoenix she closed two cases she filed in spring this year.
Nationally, sexual assault cases rarely end in prosecution for the assailant. Out of 1,000 rapes, only six people will go to jail, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a rape victims advocate group.
Many sexual assaults also go unreported. Of 1,000 rapes, only 310 are reported to the police, according to estimates from RAINN.
Mira Krivoshey, assistant director of health promotion at Loyola’s Wellness Center, who counsels students on resources regarding gender-based misconduct, said while victims often tell friends and family about incidents, survivors often don’t report to law enforcement for a variety of reasons, including they want to forget the incident, don’t think anything would come from reporting and don’t think the incident was serious enough to be reported.
Landis said she thinks the increase in reports at Loyola is reflective of a changing culture of awareness and activism rather than a rise in actual incidents.
“I think it really has to do with the culture that we’ve seen shifting over the last few years,” Landis said. “So we had … student activism happening as early as like 2009 and onward [with] students calling attention across the country, not specifically here at Loyola, but across the country saying, ‘We’re unsatisfied. This is not fair. This is a violation of my rights. These are problems that we’re having.’”
Krivoshey also said the increase in reports is reflective of increased awareness of resources and nationwide discussion on the issue.
“I think there’s the national discussion around campus sexual violence and around what is happening nationally,” Krivoshey said. “People feel more empowered to come forward and recognize that we do believe people and we’re not going to victim-blame and that we want to provide support.”
Krivoshey said she’s seen an increase in reporting for advocacy services at the Wellness Center, with reports “at least doubling” this year in comparison to last year.
Landis also credited raised awareness to an increase in guidelines during the Obama administration under the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which set guidelines for handling sexual assault cases in higher education. Those guidelines have been rolled back under the current U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, a top aide to President Donald Trump, after she said they failed to uphold the rights of both accusers and the accused, particularly denying rights of accused students.
However, studies have shown the actual number of false reports to be comparatively low. About 2 to 8 percent of sexual assault cases are false reports, according to a 2009 article from the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.
Loyola reaffirmed its commitment to upholding the current standards of Title IX after DeVos’ rollbacks in a statement earlier this semester.
“Loyola University Chicago has been and remains committed to demonstrating care for all students and responding to gender-based misconduct in a way that honors the dignity and rights of all parties, rooted in our values of equity, justice, and cura personalis,” the statement reads.
Landis said it’s clear some cases haven’t gone well on a national scale, bringing criticism of Title IX and its policies from both ends of the spectrum, but everyone she’s met who works in Title IX departments takes their jobs seriously.
“Here at Loyola, I’m not going to pretend that everything’s always perfect, but I really am confident in our system and the people who do this job,” Landis said. “I’m really proud to work here because I think we take this very seriously, not just from a compliant standpoint. That’s obviously something we need to make sure that we’re doing. But we come at this really as a student centered approach.”
The Wellness Center will sponsor a workshop Nov. 29 5-6:30 p.m. in the Damen Cinema focused on raising awareness of relationship abuse.