April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Since 1993, the number of sexual assault cases in the United States has been cut in half. Yet, every 73 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
The national statistics on sexual harassment—the official legal term—are very different for men and women. One of every six women has experienced sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation. For men, one in 33 are affected.
However, only five of every 1000 rapists are in prison.
By law, Northwestern follows tightly what state and federal governments mandate. One of the first assemblies for freshmen is the Title IX presentation that makes clear what the national and campus policy is that year.
“Whereas some colleges try to ‘sweep it under the rug,’ we’ve worked hard to respond promptly and justly when reports have come to us,” dean of student life Julie Elliott said. “Our responsibility is to ensure that our campus is a safe place to live, learn and grow.”
The Title IX presentation is followed in each residence by a video about consent using the analogy of tea. The residency restriction of no closed dorm rooms when members of the opposite sex are present were also put into practice with Title IX cases in mind.
NW’s Title IX team consists of Deb Sandbulte, Chris Yaw, Marlon Haverdink and Julie Elliot. Sandbulte is the Title IX coordinator who safeguards regulations. In cases involving employees, she is the primary investigator. Yaw is the deputy coordinator that steps in when Sandbulte is employed as an investigator. Haverdink and Elliot are Title IX student investigators.
A complainant is the person stepping forward with the case. The respondent is the party the case is directed toward. Investigators sit down with the complainant, hear their story, talk through their options and ask for suggestions of who else to talk to. Then they do the same for the respondent. Afterward, Haverdink and Elliot determine if actions need to be taken, i.e. changing classes, moving living arrangements or establishing no-contact orders.
Once those steps have been taken, the recorded conversations are put into a report for both parties; the complainant can move forward to a hearing or resolve the issue personally. If a hearing is chosen, the NW Title IX team brings in a Title IX attorney to lead and student advisors make cases on students’ behalf.
Whichever way the complainant may move forward, legal action is not necessarily taken. The most NW can do is expel a student, and this has happened several times.
“Sexual misconduct has happened and does happen on this campus, and we want anyone affected by it to feel safe to come forward,” Elliott said. “We are committed to objectively pursuing the facts, supporting survivors and stopping perpetrators.”
Every NW employee is a part of the work to stop Title IX cases. Except for those serving in psychological services or ministry, NW employees are required to share information about sexual misconduct with the Title IX team. Reporters includes resident assistants, Campus Ministry Team leaders and other paid student leaders. People at NW who need to report these cases are mandatory reporters.
“Being a mandatory reporter means that if I know anything about a potential Title IX violation, I have to pass that communication up the ladder,” Hospers Hall resident director Michael Simmelink said. “It is not necessary that I have any level of proof outside the judgement. The claims are the bare minimum of credibility.”
Raiders can report anything they see or experience on My Northwestern using the anonymous Raider Reporting Center.
“Even if you just hear a rumor about something happening to someone, or a pattern of disturbing behavior, please report that,” Simmelink said. “Your role is to take care of your brothers and sisters and hold them to a higher standard.”
The national sexual assault hotline is 1-800-656-4673.