Sexual Violence on Students More Prevalent Off Campus

Alexandra Runnion | The PhoenixThere were 55 reports of sexual violence at Loyola reported in 2016.

The issue of sexual violence on Loyola students is more pervasive than they might realize, documents obtained by The Phoenix show.

The documents, which were sent to the Illinois attorney general in accordance with the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act (PSVHA), show 55 instances of sexual violence in 2016 compared to the publicly available 15 instances in Loyola’s annual safety and security report from that year.

A federal law called the Clery Act requires Loyola — and any college receiving federal funding — to list all crimes on or adjacent to campus each calendar year, records that are readily available to the public on Loyola’s website.

But a lesser known state law that was signed into law in 2015, PSVHA, requires colleges in Illinois to give more details about the specifics and responses to sex crimes.

And with those state numbers not publicized — only obtained by The Phoenix through an open records request to the Illinois attorney general — the public impression of sexual violence might not match the reality.

While Loyola’s 2016 PSVHA report included off-campus reports of sex crimes, the law only requires a school to share the details of reports within its Clery geography.

“While not required by the reporting guidelines, it should be noted that the vast majority of reports received occured off-campus,” the PSVHA report read.

Loyola officials said PSVHA reports may be made public in the future.

Nationally, around 23 percent of female undergraduates and around 5 percent of male undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

PSVHA allows the school to be more accountable when reacting to reports of sexual violence, according to Tim Love, Loyola’s Title IX coordinator.

“Clery Act just asks how many reported crimes of a certain category happened within a certain geography,” Love said. “It doesn’t ask what we did about them or how we came about them. [PSVHA] gives more context to those numbers.”

Of reports within Loyola’s Clery geography in 2016, 12 reports at Loyola were unable to be investigated because the accused person wasn’t a Loyola student or employee; five survivors chose not to go through the investigation process; two filed police reports; five reports were made with Campus Safety and two reports received formal investigations from the school.

Each category of response from the university can overlap with another and each category of crime can overlap, according to Love, which is why this breakdown exceeds the 15 Clery crimes.

For example, a survivor may have gone through the Loyola investigatory process and also filed an official police report. In some cases, a sexual assault can be counted under dating violence and also sexual violence, Love said.

Of the three 2016 reports that made it all the way through Loyola’s investigation process, no one was suspended or expelled from the school, the documents show.

However, two of the accused were found to have violated Loyola’s academic policy in other ways and were placed on university probation.

The exact outcomes of specific cases are difficult to follow in the documents, according to Love, because of the overlap between different categories of outcome and crime.

While 55 reports of sexual violence off-campus were made in 2016, the actual number of instances is likely much higher. The outcomes of these reports are unknown because they aren’t required to be disclosed by PSVHA.

More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses don’t report their assault for a number of reasons, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Sarah Layden, director of public policy at Resilience, a sexual violence support center, said the documents likely don’t show the whole picture.

“It would be so … counterintuitive to what we know about sexual assault to think that every student that was impacted by sexual violence that went to Loyola … reported it,” Layden said.

Layden and Love both highlighted the different paths survivors may want to take with their reports, saying that not every sexual assault will be tried in criminal court. The nature of the crime and the emotional needs of the survivor are considered before an investigation is opened.

“I don’t think that the way you address sexual violence all the time is arresting someone and making sure that they’re prosecuted and convicted because that’s just not gonna be the reality of being able to have that level of evidence 100 percent of the time,” Layden said.

While not every case can go through the legal system or a university’s investigation process, Layden said it’s important for every survivor to receive the same resources and guidance.

“When you look at improving response … do ultimately I want to see more people being held accountable for sexual violence? Sure,” Layden said, “But that outcome depends on if that’s what the survivor wants. I mean for me, I just want to make sure that there’s procedural justice every step of the way so that survivors feel like they’re being supported.”

Even if a report of sexual violence doesn’t get investigated, Loyola still provides the survivor with resources and assistance, according to Love.

“I can say that we routinely provide assistance to students who report experiencing sexual violence, dating violence, etc., regardless of where the incident occurred (off-/on-campus, etc.),” Love said in an email. “Such assistance is always determined on a case-by-case basis and initiated at a complainant/survivor’s request, and can take many forms, including but not limited to: assisting in finding temporary housing on-campus, notifications to faculty to request academic accommodations, no contact directives, banning non-LUC individuals from our campuses, etc.”

Loyola, along with other universities in Illinois, was involved in the process of writing the PSVHA, according to Phil Hale, Loyola’s vice president for government affairs. He said administrators from various schools gave their input about what should be included in the legislation.

Hale said the implementation of the PSVHA was inspired by certain guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice, many of which Loyola already followed, so the act didn’t change Loyola’s practices drastically.

“We have already embraced many of those guidelines ourselves,” Hale said. “So it was very easy for us to participate in the process and then to support the legislation as it worked its way through the Illinois General Assembly.”

The Illinois Attorney General’s office didn’t return The Phoenix’s request for comment.

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