Sexual misconduct report released

Yale’s fifth semi-annual report of sexual misconduct complaints, which listed any complaints of sexual assault, harassment or other misconduct brought to University officials between July 1 and Dec. 31 2013, contains the highest number of complaints ever disclosed in the report since it was first issued in 2011.

The number of complaints of sexual misconduct on campus totaled 70 over the past six months — a roughly 15 percent increase over complaints in the previous six-month period — according to the report, which was released Monday evening.

Of the 70 complaints, 11 involved sexual assaults, nine were acts of intimate partner violence, 43 involved general sexual harassment and seven involved a range of behaviors not included in the other categories, such as stalking and voyeurism.

Seven new cases were formally brought before the University-Wide Committee (UWC) on Sexual Misconduct, a process that involves an external fact-finder, a hearing and possible disciplinary action. Four of these cases resulted in suspensions, one student withdrew from the University, one case is pending and the last resulted in no disciplinary action.

“I can only speculate — and not be certain — about the circumstances that led to an increase in the number of cases in the current report,” University Title IX Coordinator and Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said in an email to the News. “The range of behaviors underlying the complaints suggests a broader awareness of our procedures and standards. However, the level of reporting still falls substantially below the incidence of sexual assault reported in national surveys — underscoring that our collective focus should be on the work we have yet to do.”

The previous report, which covered the period between Jan. 1 and June 30, included updates on four cases involving undergraduate allegations of nonconsensual sex. The formal UWC committee found sufficient evidence in each case that the respondent engaged in nonconsensual sexual activity with the complainant. Though one respondent was suspended, one was placed on probation and two were given written reprimands, none were expelled. In the aftermath, members of the Yale community criticized the lack of disciplinary action for perpetrators of sexual assaults.

As a result, last September, administrators detailed three hypothetical scenarios involving nonconsensual sex that would result in expulsion. Spangler said the scenarios illustrated how the UWC applies the University’s definition of consent “to make findings and recommend discipline in cases involving a range of behaviors where agreement is not positive, voluntary and unambiguous throughout a sexual encounter.”

Chief Communications Officer Elizabeth Stauderman said the University is trying to create standards for the Yale community that are much higher than for the general public.

“No other university puts out this comprehensive [of a] report,” said UWC Chair and Philosophy Professor Michael Della Rocca. “This is actually distinctive in North American academic settings.”

Stauderman said other universities have asked for access to Yale’s scenarios on sexual misconduct, adding that she hopes the report will increase awareness in the Yale community of the procedures available to address sexual misconduct and build a culture of respect and responsibility on campus.

Spangler said the current report involves more specific descriptions of complaints than in previous reports. She and other administrators added that this increased detail, along with hyperlinks to key terms and “frequently asked questions,” and more charts presenting statistics in different ways, is meant to make the report more accessible to readers.

According to the report, one case involved a female undergraduate alleging that a male undergraduate made “unwanted advances and engaged in touching of a sexual nature without her consent.” The UWC found evidence supporting the allegations and the respondent received a two-term suspension, mandatory sexual consent training and prohibition from contacting the complainant.

In another case, which was previously brought before the UWC and updated in the Monday report, a Title IX coordinator brought forward a formal complaint against a male Yale faculty member alleging that he had sexually harassed a female postdoctoral associate. Another faculty member brought forward a related complaint against the same respondent. The UWC found evidence to substantiate the claim of sexual harassment, and as a result, the male faculty member was suspended from his leadership position and is required to complete harassment prevention training.

Four students interviewed said they approved of the University’s work to change campus culture, but it still has a ways to go.

“I know, from national statistics and from my own experience at Yale, that sexual misconduct is always happening at disturbingly high rates, but is rarely reported,” said Hannah Slater ’13 SPH ’14, founding member of Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale and former co-director of the Sexual Literacy Forum. “An increase in reporting is great news, and Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale is continuing to push the administration to further improve the reporting and response system.”

Matt Breuer ’14, a Community and Consent Educator (CCE), said the increase in complaints indicates that more people are using University resources to report sexual misconduct. He believes the University is committed to closing the gap between the number of incidences and the number of reported incidences, he said.

“Underreporting is not unique to us,” said Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90. “I think our reporting rates are probably good [compared to other universities].” She added that national reporting rates of sexual misconduct often fall below 10 percent.

There were 61 complaints listed in the previous report, which was released on July 31.

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