Section: News

Sexual misconduct reports on the rise

Reports of sexual misconduct at Kenyon continue to increase, while the percentage of those made in confidence has declined, according to statistics included in the 2014-15 student handbook.

Last year, the College logged 45 cases of sexual misconduct, two-thirds of which were reported confidentially. That number compares to 40 cases in the 2013-14 academic year (75 percent reported confidentially) and 18 the year before (77.8 percent).

Dean of Students Hank Toutain said the data don’t necessarily suggest sexual misconduct has become more prevalent in recent years.

“For many, many years, we’ve had a good sense of the degree to which sexual misconduct was occurring,” Toutain said. “It wasn’t being reported, but we were pretty sure that it was happening. From my seat, the fact that people are now reporting — I’m very pleased that that is happening, and I expect the numbers may continue to rise.”

Toutain hopes a shift in campus culture about issues of sexual misconduct will encourage increased reporting.

“We’ve been trying to create an environment where it’s not only possible to report a violation, but where it’s comfortable to do so,” Toutain said.

Samantha Hughes, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, oversees the preparation of the numbers in the handbook. Hughes said that in the past, “looking at zeroes was very troubling, to students especially … When you see numbers, I think there’s power there.”

Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the College divided sexual misconduct violations into eight categories: non-consensual sexual contact, non-consensual sexual intercourse, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, endangering the health of another person and dating violence. In three of the eight categories, the 2014-15 statistics reflected an increase. Two—non-conensual sexual intercourse and dating violence–saw decreases and one—endangering the health of another person—was unchanged; two more categories—stalking and domestic violence—were included in the report for the first time.

While the percentage of confidentially reported cases has decreased overall,  some categories saw an increase.

For example, in 2013-14, seven of 13 non-consensual sexual contact cases were reported confidentially, a figure that in 2014-15 rose to 14 of 17 cases.

The rates of confidential reporting for non-consensual sexual intercourse tended in the opposite direction, falling from 77.8 percent of cases in 2013-14 to 33.3 percent the next year.

Of the 10 reports of sexual exploitation, or taking advantage of another’s sexuality or attractiveness for personal gain, reported in the past two years, only one was in confidence.

For Hughes, the fluctuation with which certain types of sexual misconduct are reported does not signify any inconsistency in how certain cases of misconduct are handled.

“I think the only safe thing to say is that it’s a different year,” she said, “because so much depends on the people involved — their level of knowledge, their comfort in reporting and where they report.”

Toutain said, “We’ve tried to be very explicit along the way to de-mystify the process, make it less foreboding, also to provide support and assistance for people along the way.”

He believes the enumeration of each specific offense, coupled with an increase in reporting, will enable the College to respond to, and ultimately reduce, sexual misconduct on campus. Toutain said increased attention to Title IX has led administrators to define the instances of misconduct on the campus more explicitly.

Toutain said knowledge of which categories of sexual misconduct are most common on campus can help him and other administrators “pay greater attention to” how those violations might be eradicated.

Hughes said a specified list of offenses “helps the College target our educational efforts around the areas that seem to be on the rise.”

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