The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Sexual Assault at Reed:What I know and what I think

When trying to understand sexual assault at Reed, it can sometimes be difficult to separate what we think from what we know. It is part of our mandate at Community Safety to gather statistics on campus regarding sexual assault, and from that information there are certain things I objectively know to be true. While I would like to share my opinions based on those facts, I will first share what I know.

The first question anyone asks about sexual assault on campus is, “How many assaults have been reported?” Over the past year, there have been 11 reports of sexual assault, made either directly to Community Safety (CS), or forwarded to me by other college officials. These 11 reports represent 9 individual survivors. Every sexual assault reported to CS, or received by CS via another college official (with the exception of reports made directly to the HCC), has been entered into the crime log, listed on the map in my office, and shared with the Quest CSO Blotter.

All of us who work in community safety work diligently to ensure the privacy of any individual who reports a sexual assault. Because of that, we cannot share all of the details of each incident. We can, however, give the following general information about the reports:

  • Eight of the 11 reports are incidents that occurred this academic year. Four of the 11 reports were made within 24 hours of the incident. The remaining 7 were made between 30 days and 2 years after the incident.
  • Nine of the 11 incidents were reported to have occurred on campus. In six of the 11 the precise location was reported.
  • In seven of the 11 reports the name of the alleged assailant was reported; all were Reed students.

Sexual assault is a crime, and we fully support students who would like our assistance in reporting incidents of sexual assault to the police. All nine individual survivors were offered this opportunity. All nine individuals declined to make a crime report to the police at the time of their making a report to us. We support the decision not to go to the police, too. Absent an imminent threat to the safety of the community, CS will not engage police for a reported sexual assault without the survivor’s consent. When you type “reporting a sexual assault” into the search bar on Reed’s website, the following page is the first that comes up:

The first item under the “Procedures” heading reads:

1. Go to a safe place

Call a friend, family member, or someone of trust to stay with; consider calling the police or community safety.

Community safety officers and staff have worked with Portland Police Bureau (PPB) sex crime detectives and the Multnomah County District Attorney who handle sex crimes for many years.  I personally have met with them, and the Multnomah County Sexual Assault Response Team, multiple times since coming to Reed last June. This past month I reviewed the CS process for handling reports of sexual assault with a PPB sex crime detective, including showing him our response checklist, threat assessment tools, and discussing the 11 reports made to me this year. The relationship between Reed community safety and law enforcement is based on mutual trust, collaboration, and transparency.

The Quest published a report on a lecture at Reed on April 12 by Shira Tarrant, reporting that Dr. Tarrant’s position was that, “whenever one is in any sort of impaired state, he or she is unable to consent or accurately recognize when consent is given.”

In 100% of the 11 reported sexual assaults, either the alleged assailant or the survivor was intoxicated.  In eight of the 11, both the alleged assailant and the survivor were reported to have been intoxicated.

This is what I think: Everyone at Reed with whom I have personally spoken about this issue, including students, staff, and faculty, wants to do the right things in the right order for the right reasons.  AND, we ALL have ample room for improvement—improvement in how we do our work, in how we understand the complexities of the issue, and in how we engage one another on this critical, emotional, potentially devastating problem.

It is human nature to most easily see what we expect to see.  If I could change one thing today, it would be to transform the tone of the current campus discussion from one of finger-pointing and debate, to a true dialectic where we are searching for—perhaps expecting—the truth in one another’s ideas. We all want a safe community and having one requires all of our efforts—in support of one another.

One Response to “Sexual Assault at Reed:What I know and what I think”
  1. As someone who was actually working for Community Safety when what we now call the Clery Act first came into effect, I was one of the people who went through old incident reports trying to calculate and properly classify (as best we were able) which box (if any) to place various reported incidents in. At this time, there was almost no student trust of the administration or other staff to hear of or do anything about sexual assault. Proponents for greater awareness of sexual assault and the development of rape-prevention education fell almost entirely to students, former students and their allies. It was these allies who gave me much of the moral support and resources to go forward and offer rudimentary explanations of what sexual assault was, under the law, and what circumstances it was most likely to occur. My experience at the time was that Community Safety was glad that someone was willing to do so, particularly someone on “their side.” Vice Presidents in Eliot Hall were mostly uninterested or concerned that talk of sexual assault might reflect poorly on them personally.

    Statistically, Reed is like most residential campuses in that it can expect a certain number of sexual assaults each year. The dominant culture simply produces them, and in particular patterns. Based on these patterns I tried to personally be in all dorms within the first few days of O-Week for a “crime prevention presentation” where I explained the demographic realities of burglary, theft and sexual assault. Student-led presentations by the Rape Awareness Project followed within the first few weeks, and went into the social dynamics much more clearly.

    Statistically, what Mr. Granger says in strong agreement with what I would have expected. The people most at risk of being sexually assaulted are first-year women within the first few weeks of school, and the ones most likely to assault them are upperclassmen who are drinking and encouraging women to drink. It was my belief as a CSO that relatively few of these men started the evening with the intent to be a rapist, but almost all of them set out with a clear goal to “get some.” A charitable reading of their conduct would be that target fixation and alcohol impaired their judgment, but my sense was also that the number of rapists was lower than the number of victims. Although most rapes are committed by men, most mens are not rapists, and many college rapists will assault more than one woman. This means that assertive and pro-active rape awareness and prevention is crucial.

    Assertive and pro-active rape awareness and prevention CANNOT be done by Flash video over teh Interwebz, and anyone who asserts it can is an idiot looking for an out. Such crime prevention was most effective, in my limited experience, when consistently delivered in person with an opportunity for questions and feedback from multiple sources: authorities, peers and outside authorities. Young women needed to understand what rape was and what the dangers were. Young men needed to understand what rape was and that I would personally seek them out for pursuit and consequences. Most men want to do the right thing and can with proper support. Those who choose otherwise are what make the darker aspects of being a CSO much more fun.

    As a CSO I was very happy and grateful for the implementation of what is now known as the Clery Act, because it provided a “hammer and anvil” by which Student Services and Reed College could be forced to do the right thing. The relatively unyielding anvil of federal reporting standards created a backstop, against which rape-prevention advocates could maneuver and pound the administration. By increasing student awareness of effective ways to report sexual assaults, Community Safety could help create more reports. By increasing student awareness of what sexual assault was and how to stop it, Community Safety could decrease the number of assaults. Community Safety gets paid to do both things, and ideally sees an initial spike in reports, followed by a steady decrease as (A) students work to avoid assaults in the first place, (B) reports allow identification and remediation of rapists and (C) the broader culture “gets” that this is a real issue.

    Officer Friendly cannot walk into Clueless Hall and give a credible presentation on rape prevention which will stop all sexual assaults. What Community Safety can do is to clarify reporting procedures and use the Clery Act to help focus attention on the problem, which ultimately is one for current students to solve. I am confident that students understand the problem and will work to decrease the incident of sexual assault, because fewer assaults means more and better sex for most of the student body.

    With proper education and a clear understanding of how the Clery Act works, I am confident that Reed College Community Safety can be part of the solution. Rape awareness advocates who appreciate this will work effectively to enlist their assistance while understanding that there are limits to what RCCS can do, sitting as they do under a Vice President.

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