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.