Sexual complaint resources questioned

As the University expands resources for victims of sexual misconduct, students interviewed expressed mixed opinions on how well the multitude of programs facilitates the process of seeking help.

Students can use a variety of resources to address sexual misconduct — including Title IX coordinators in each of the University’s schools, the Yale Police Department, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center (SHARE), and the newly established University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC). Although administrators said the system is designed to ensure students have access to a variety of resources they feel comfortable approaching, many students interviewed said the abundance of resources does not provide a clear path for those wishing to file a sexual harassment complaint.

“We want multiple but not infinite points of entry,” said Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, who is charged with ensuring the University meets federal Title IX regulations. “Part of our efforts were to create discrete points of entry so when you enter, you hear all your options.”

Last Tuesday, Spangler released Yale’s first-ever report documenting sexual misconduct complaints across the University. The report indicated that 52 cases of sexual misconduct were brought to University administrators between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year. Thirty-six of those complaints were brought to Title IX coordinators, 12 were filed with the UWC and four were brought to the Yale Police Department.

The University’s response to sexual misconduct is under increased scrutiny in light of the ongoing investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after 16 students and alumnae filed a Title IX complaint against Yale last March. A press release from the complainants issued in March said the filing was partially motivated by “Yale’s failure to appropriately address several instances of private sexual harassment and assault.”

Peter Lake, director for the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, said it is possible to “overwarn” and “desensitize” people to critical issues by offering too many resources, but added that the variety allows administrators to address a wider range of concerns through specialization.

“Right now, there just aren’t people out there who — as one person or one entity — can deliver all of those services simultaneously,” he said. “Some law enforcement [officers] are not always trained in sexual assault prevention, [and] some counselors can’t do what police do.”

Administrators, students leaders and SHARE counselors are responsible for informing students who approach them about strategies for handling issues of sexual misconduct. Students can bring informal complaints — which do not result in disciplinary action — to Title IX coordinators or the UWC, but only the UWC handles formal complaints, which include investigations and can lead to disciplinary action. Students interested in pursuing criminal charges can bring their cases to the Yale Police.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in a November interview that she hopes SHARE becomes the central advisory body for helping students address cases of sexual misconduct, adding that she would like the center’s visibility to grow “so that there will be no questions and no doubt in the minds of students that [SHARE] is the place to turn to.”

But 15 students interviewed said they are still not completely familiar with the resources available for addressing sexual misconduct. While all five freshmen interviewed said they would turn to their freshman counselors first for advice, other students mentioned resources such as residential college deans, communication and consent educators (CCEs), professors, Yale Health and the Yale Police Department.

None of the 15 students interviewed said they would immediately contact Title IX coordinators or the UWC.

George Ramirez ’15 said he thought the current process for handling sexual grievances is confusing because of the large number of resources available, which he said makes it difficult to determine a clear course of action for students who want to address an incident of sexual misconduct. Ramirez added that during the freshman workshops on communication and consent — mandatory sessions launched this semester and led by CCEs — he was shown a chart indicating which resources students could use in different circumstances that did not significantly simplify the process.

“There were too many resources, and it felt like if you have one type of sexual misconduct issue you should go to this person, and if you felt [you had] another type you should go to this other person,” Ramirez said. “If you had the chart with you, it might be helpful, but I just wouldn’t be able to use that information immediately.”

But Alexandra Brodsky ’12, one of the complainants in the ongoing Title IX investigation, said she commended Yale’s variety of resources since “no one center [by itself] is going to be able to address the needs of every student who has experienced this sort of violence.”

Spangler said she plans to publish a report on sexual misconduct cases twice per year, with the next one scheduled for release this July.

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