Panel questions way University handles sex crimes

In 2003, 41 sex crimes were reported to Harvard’s campus security, while during the same period, nine sex crimes were reported at Yale, according to the Office of Postsecondary Education’s Campus Security Statistics Web site. Are Harvard students at four times the risk of their Yale counterparts? Not according to the coordinators of Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention.

The group held a town hall meeting Sunday in the Women’s Center with panelists from organizations including Men Against Rape and Sexual Violence, CONSENT — a telephone peer counseling hotline for victims of sexual assault — and Community Health Educators. The 25 audience members discussed factors that participant Della Sentilles ’06 said contributed to “an informal attitude that rape doesn’t happen on this campus.”

“The goal was to open up a dialogue about sexual violence,” said Sunny Kim ’06, one of RSVP’s coordinators. “We see an unwillingness to address this issue on the Yale campus. Anecdotally, I know rape is happening on this campus; if the numbers say otherwise, that’s an institutional problem.”

Claire Conly ’05, leader of the Rape and Sexual Assault unit of Community Health Educators, said students were generally unaware that resources on campus had procedures in place to maintain confidentiality and did not know where to report an on-campus sex crime. To help facilitate the reporting of sex crimes, RSVP is advocating the creation of a rape crisis center, modeled after similar institutions at Harvard and Stanford universities, in order to help victims of sexual assault navigate Yale’s resources. Currently, Kim said, there is not centralization of all the options available for rape victims.

“It’s a waste of a cab ride and of Planned Parenthood’s dollars for Yale students to go off campus when we’re funding so many programs on campus,” she said.

But Yale President Richard Levin said that Yale’s provost sent out a letter last year to all students reminding them of the procedures for reporting rape, and said the diversity of choices is a positive.

“There are a number of different channels for reporting such things, and basically, women are encouraged to use whatever the most comfortable means is for them,” he said.

Currently, students have access to a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker trained in rape crisis counseling 24 hours a day, according to the Yale University Health Services Web site.

Participants in the town hall meeting pointed to accusations that Yale has violated the Jeanne Clery Act, which mandates reporting sex-crime statistics to the Department of Education, and a lack of publicity surrounding the case of Tiberio Frisoli ’02, an alumnus who pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a Yale student two years ago, as evidence that the issue of rape is “hushed up” on the Yale campus.

More generally, Community Health Educator Cara Demmerle ’06 said, many students have a narrow definition of what constitutes rape.

“A lot of the time, the victim won’t realize that what just happened was rape,” she said.

A sophomore CONSENT counselor — who asked to remain anonymous because of CONSENT regulations — said that a bigger problem was students’ lack of awareness about what constituted sexual assault.

“One party walked out thinking, ‘I got laid, and it was great,’ and the other is thinking, ‘I got raped, and it really wasn’t,’” she said.

When alcohol is involved, said Demmerle, this lack of awareness is particularly pronounced.

“People can understand in theory that when you’re drunk, you can’t give consent,” she said. “But when it comes to specific situations, they don’t like to call a drunken hookup rape.”

According to Demmerle, most Yale students care about issues of rape and sexual assault but are unaware of how certain behaviors — such as laughing at the recent Rumpus article that made light of date-rape drugs — can legitimize instances of sexual violence. Eric Sandberg-Zakian ’07 of MARS pointed to the lack of communication between those actively involved in the rape prevention movement and the average college student as part of this problem.

“There’s a fundamental chasm between those of us who identify ourselves with the rape [prevention] movement and others,” he said.

According to the event’s organizers, invitations to the town hall meeting were extended to various fraternities on campus and the Rumpus editor in chief but were declined.

RSVP plans to meet with Yale College Dean Peter Salovey to discuss its recommendations this Wednesday.

Members of the campus group Rape and Sex Violence Prevention gather in a town hall meeting in the Women’s Center to discuss sexual violence. Sitting on the couch, Dara Young ’07, Claire Conly ’05 and Cara Demmerle ’06 listen to one of the session’s presenters.
Leland Milstein
Members of the campus group Rape and Sex Violence Prevention gather in a town hall meeting in the Women’s Center to discuss sexual violence. Sitting on the couch, Dara Young ’07, Claire Conly ’05 and Cara Demmerle ’06 listen to one of the session’s presenters.

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