By Cassy Sottile and Erica Quinones
Over the course of this semester, there have been seven cases of Title IX and sex offenses reported on campus. Some reports are for incidents from the fall 2018 semester.
According to Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Dr. Candace Wannamaker, sexual misconduct is defined as deliberate sexual behavior, contact, or the threat of sexual contact without the other person’s active consent. This includes non-consensual contact, forced sexual contact, non-consensual sexual intercourse, forced sexual intercourse, sexual exploitation, and sexual harassment.
Discussion of Title IX issues have been prevalent on campus through Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Sexual Assault Response and Advocacy (S.A.R.A.) Coordinator Sarah Tansits’ “It’s On Us” program. The talks drew attention to sexual offenses on campus and how the Washington College community can be both proactive and properly react if approached by a survivor.
It is important for all students to know the resource available on and off campus, according to Tansits.
Being aware of the different resources allows for students to support their peers who have been affected by sexual offenses. According to Tansits, she hopes that reports are up because students are more aware of available outlets.
When a survivor does reach out to on-campus resources like the S.A.R.A. team through their 24-hour hotline, a process controlled by the student begins.
S.A.R.A. advocates are mandatory reporters, so they must file a CARE report which is sent to Dr. Wannamaker as well as Tansits. But what actions taken from there is headed by the survivor.
When receiving a report, the hotline advocate will assure the caller is in a safe space before asking if they want to meet in person or continue over the phone. If the assault was recent, the advocate will ask if the survivor wants to visit the hospital and would like the advocate to accompany them. The advocate will then offer resources like filing a report with the Department of Public Safety or the Chestertown Police Department, scheduling a confidential counseling session, starting a Title IX investigation, or connecting with For All Seasons, a local rape crisis center.
It is not necessary for the survivor to make any immediate decisions unless they want to go to the hospital for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). This is because the exam is time sensitive.
Survivors have “five days from assault [to be examined], if only oral or anal, [they] have 24 hours from the assault,” Tansits said.
Afterwards, Tansits will follow up with the survivor to assure they are aware of their options and ask how they want to proceed.
One such option is reporting the assault to Public Safety. Through this process, an officer would take an initial report of the incident which is reviewed by Director of the Department of Public Safety Brandon McFayden and Associate Director of the Department of Public Safety Susan Golinski.
The survivor is then taken to Dr. Wannamaker, who assigns an investigator to the incident if required, according to McFayden.
He and Golinski are the primary Title IX Investigators for Public Safety but not all of the investigators are Public Safety staff members.
Once the investigation is complete, their report is given to Dr. Wannamaker and Public Safety’s involvement ends unless they are called as a witness for an honor board or criminal hearing.
The decision to pursue criminal charges and transfer the case to the Chestertown Police is solely left to the student.
“The only exception would be if it is believed that there is an ongoing danger to the campus community like an unknown assailant, for example,” McFayden said. “In a case like this, [Public Safety] would contact Chestertown Police and an investigation would be conducted, making every effort to protect the victim’s identity in the process.”
Tansits, like the “It’s On Us” program, says that it takes a village to prevent sexual assault. It also takes a community to support survivors.
It is important for people to watch out for each other by being active bystanders, and to both check in with and listen to their partners to prevent sexual offenses.
To support survivors on campus, the community should believe survivors, validate their emotional state, and be kind. Some survivors do not tell their stories for years, so one can never know what someone else has experienced, according to Tansits.
Survivors can talk to a S.A.R.A. advocate anytime through their hotline at 410-699-0742. They can also come to Tansits’ office, which is located in Hodson Hall Commons.