Clery Report reveals rise in reported sexual violence crimes

The Wellness Center, located in Winslow Hall, is one of the on-campus resources available to students. (Marya Kuratova / McDaniel Free Press)The Wellness Center, located in Winslow Hall, is one of the on-campus resources available to students. (Marya Kuratova / McDaniel Free Press)

The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and the continued surge of the #MeToo movement dominating the news, coupled with last month’s release of McDaniel’s annual fire safety and security report, have reportedly left many students feeling uneasy.

On Sept. 27, Campus Safety released the 2018 Clery Report, detailing the services they provide, information on security policies and procedures, crime data from the past three years, and crime preventative information.

According to President Casey’s statement in the Clery Report, “[our First Principles] values require we share responsibility for each other, including the responsibility for maximizing our collective safety. In fact, safety on campus is one of the highest concerns.”

However, a number of students say they feel the College is not doing enough to ensure campus-wide safety, especially in regards to preventing sexual violence crimes.

“McDaniel College is failing to acknowledge that sexual assault and rape cases have become a serious problem on this campus,” said one female student, who wished to remain anonymous. “They beg students to go through the student conduct process, and then they do nothing about the case in general.”

This student reported her attacker to campus police and, despite finding him guilty of multiple counts of sexual assault, campus authorities merely placed him on probation.

According to the Clery Report, the minimum recommended sanction for “any student who is determined to have committed non-consensual sexual intercourse” is suspension. Sanctions for a student guilty of committing “non-consensual sexual contact or any other prohibited form of conduct” range from a disciplinary warning to expulsion. The full list of recommended procedures is included in the Clery Report and is outlined in the College’s Title IX policies.

The victim then reached out to Westminster police to file a report, hoping that these authorities would enforce sufficient punishment. Her case is just one of many reported to McDaniel in recent years.

According to the Clery Report, there were two reports of rape in 2015, 16 reports in 2016, and eight in 2017. It is important to note that 10 of the 16 reported cases in 2016 involved the same complainant and the same respondent, which means there were seven cases of rape with unique complainants in 2016. There were also zero reported cases of fondling in 2015, one in 2016, and four in 2017.

An evaluation of the daily crime log from January 2018 through September 2018 showed that the number of reported sexual crimes is continuing to steadily rise. So far this year, a total of 29 sexual violence crimes have been reported, including seven rapes and six instances of fondling. As of early October, 11 of these 29 cases were still active.

Campus officials, however, argue that these numbers indicate a positive change. Director of Campus Safety Eric Immler believes that the number of crimes is not increasing each year; rather, the resources McDaniel offers are encouraging victims to feel more comfortable to step forward and report these crimes.

“The main goal for me, for my department, for the Title IX Coordinator, and for the College overall is to do what’s right for both the complainant and the respondent in each case,” said Immler.

Another female victim, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she feels this response is typical of the College’s desire to preserve their own image and protect the accused, rather than honor the victim first and foremost. She chose not to report either of her assaults on campus because she was not sure whether officials would believe her.

“I didn’t want to relive what happened to me,” she said. “I also didn’t want to invite the ostracism that I’ve seen other survivors who have reported their assaults endure.”

According to Dean of Students Liz Towle, “some people might feel uncomfortable reporting or coming forward because it is a small school where they feel like everyone is in their business and they’ll be overexposed under a microscope during the investigation.”

Towle explained that coming forward despite these fears is imperative because it would allow victims to access a full range of “crucial and critical types of support” including counseling and academic accommodations, not just an investigation and punishment for the abuser.

She believes more education on bystander intervention and available resources can help encourage victims to come forward, citing that first-year students in their first six weeks of college report more cases than any other population on campus.

According to Towle, more students are hearing about bystander intervention in high school, so more students are coming into college with knowledge of what to do. They then go through a program as part of new student orientation that focuses on sexual misconduct and abuse, which solidifies intervention skills and helps victims feel more comfortable reporting.

“I think it’s a topic that has just become more prominent in the education of students,” Towle said.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, several groups on campus are working to extend the campus community’s education on sexual assault prevention. For instance, on Oct. 9, the Progressive Student Union held an open discussion on sexual violence.

“The purpose of the event,” said Sylvan Greyson, president of PSU, “was to bring together students in order to identify how sexual assault impacts the environment on our campus, recognize how the reporting/investigation process takes place, and brainstorm questions/ideas to address how our community and administration can respond better to cases of sexual assault.”

The event also brought up conversation regarding victims’ reasoning behind not reporting cases of sexual assault to the College.

“I think that many people do not feel as if reporting through the official college channels will result in tangible change or justice,” Greyson said. “There are certainly sentiments of distrust, skepticism, and sometimes betrayal among students regarding how the College handles cases of sexual assault.”

Parents are echoing these beliefs, saying that McDaniel is silencing key conversations that need to be brought to light. In late September, several posts across various Parents and Families at McDaniel College Facebook pages encouraged parents to talk with their children about sexual assault, with one parent even alleging that the College had “swept things under the rug.”

These posts have since been taken down by College staff, with the official statement explaining that “the College made the decision to remove the posts because this is an ongoing process. Additionally, the purpose of this group is to serve as a resource and not a place to share personal information.”

Still, this left parents unsatisfied, with several arguing “this is a cop out by McDaniel” and demanding “to be made aware of the name of the person assaulting the McDaniel girls” in Facebook comments on the post with the official statement.

Towle asserts, though, that she does not want these topics silenced and “would much rather have a conversation with students than have students assuming the college doesn’t care [because] that’s not true.”

“If there are ways that accessing that support can be made easier to students, I want to consider how we do that,” she said. “I want students to feel like they can come forward and share what happened.”

The Clery Report states that “McDaniel College recognizes the often-sensitive nature of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents. We are committed to protecting the privacy of any individual who makes a report… [and] will do [our] best to comply with the wishes of an individual who believes that they have experienced sexual violence.”

Despite this policy, students are becoming increasingly insistent on urging victims to turn to local authorities, rather than campus police.

“Something has got to change on this campus,” the first student said. “We should be coming to a college that we feel safe to be at, and we don’t.”

The Clery Report also lists confidential resources on and off campus available to all students and staff. The Department of Campus Safety can be reached at 410-857-2202. The Wellness Center can be reached at 410-857-2243. Off campus, the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County can be reached at 410-857-7322.