According to associate dean of student care Allison Ash, roughly one in five women experience rape or attempted rape on college campuses in the United States. The statistics are not limited to women, as men are also victims of sexual violence and harassment on college campuses. Those who witness crimes are prone to the “bystander effect,” which states that the more individuals are present for a crime, the more likely they will be to assume someone else will report it. Therefore, when there are more witnesses, it is more likely that none of them will intervene.
This is an issue that Congress recently confronted, bringing to the forefront a painful reality of modern universities. Congress passed legislation to update and improve security on college campuses, hoping to effectively reduce rape cases in the US. In response to this, Wheaton College’s policies also underwent scrutiny, resulting in the revamping of the “Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and other Relationship Violence” policy, among other things.
The new legislation requires schools to provide both prevention programming and ongoing training to prevent sexual violence. Wheaton has chosen to do their training through an online program called trainED, the same training that all students are now required to take. “Statistics show that college women are most likely to experience sexual assault from the first day of college to Thanksgiving Break,” Ash said. It is important to complete this training early in the year to combat this issue.
The program’s drawback, said Ash, is that it is not from a Christian perspective. As such, Wheaton does not endorse every scenario the training presents. The Community Covenant, when adhered to, can be one of the best safeguards against sexual violence because alcohol is involved in the vast majority of these cases, either on the side of the perpetrator, the victim or both.
“The Community Covenant is an amazing resource,” Ash said, as a representation of “God’s intention for living in community.” Ash stated that when more students view this resource as a gift rather than a code of rules, the campus will become a safer location and the community will be better able to grasp the depth of God’s love. However, it is also vital for students to learn how to be aware and support those who are and have been victims.
Senior Hannah Oury took the opportunity to host a gathering of students for the joint viewing of the training. “Since everyone is required by the government to watch the Sexual Violence Prevention film I thought it would be a great opportunity to get everyone together and make (it) into something fun,” said Oury about her creative thought.
Ash’s desire for the training is for it to create a better campus environment, although it brings a negative aspect of college life to surface. “We still want to acknowledge and celebrate that Wheaton is a great place to be even in something that can be harder to talk about,” she said.
The college is hopeful that students will be more comfortable reporting rape and sexual assault, as students ideally understand the college’s desire to care for them holistically. The student care department is comprised of Student Health Services, Graduate Care, Academic and Disability Services, and the Counseling Center, and it represents many facets of student life. “The (Student Care) team is structured to a holistic view of students. Additionally, Ash stressed the importance of “taking all forms of discrimination seriously. We don’t want racial discrimination lost in the conversation.”
To discuss confidentially any instance of sexual violence or harassment, all students have access to Student Health Services, the Counseling Center and the Chaplain’s Office. In the event of rape or other assault, report to Ash, the school’s official Title IX coordinator.