Three sexual assaults reported this year


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Only three and a half months into the 2013-2014 academic school year, Allegheny College has formally reported three sexual assault cases on campus. This is a statistic that Jacquie Kondrot, Allegheny’s sexual harassment officer, Title IX coordinator, and associate dean of students for wellness education, said is unusually high for this campus.

Three cases in the last three months already puts Allegheny at exactly half of the number of cases that occurred in the whole 2012-2013 academic school year. These cases include both on and off campus reports.

Sexual assault, as defined in Allegheny’s Student Handbook, is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s academic and/or work; performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive situation or environment; submission to such conduct is made (explicitly or implicitly) a term or condition of an individual’s employment or education; or submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual.”

The college provides a detailed step by step process for victims of sexual assault who wish to file a report. There are informal complaints, where the administration will help bring closure. A resolution to the report can come in the form of education to the accused; however, a formal punishment is not necessarily given. There is also a formal complaint, according to Kondrot.

Students who believe they are the victims of sexual assault and want to go through with a formal complaint can go to campus security and report what has happened to them. If he or she says they have been assaulted and describe the nature of the assault, the school and the Office of Residence Life will take control of the case and investigate it. According to Kondrot, they will also use any and all resources available to provide care for the survivor, as well as provide any necessary support through counseling or other forms of aid.

In some cases, off-campus authorities have been called. After the accused has been given a chance to explain himself or herself, the president of the college is consulted and a ruling is handed out.

Punishments can range from nothing, to suspension for several years to give the survivor a chance to finish school without the accused on campus. Expulsion is also an option. If accused, the student has the opportunity to appeal the ruling and the case will go through an on-campus judicial process where two professors and two students hear the case and a final decision is made.

Though the accused may be expelled, that does not imply any sort of criminal punishment. A survivor must explicitly say that they would like the police to be involved for any higher action to be taken.

Though students are always given the option to go to the authorities by the school, students do not necessarily go through that process, according to Kyrsten Craig, ’14, a certified rape counselor and advocate for Women’s Services in Meadville, and Kondrot.

“Unless a survivor specifically requests that the police be involved, they do not contact the authorities because it is not within [the school’s] right to go to the authorities,” Craig said. “A survivor must go to the authorities on their own accord, or with the help of the administration and they will ask you if that is what you want to do.”

Because it is within the right of the survivor to go to the authorities, it is a possibility that a student can be found guilty of sexual assault and have no formal charges pressed against him or her. Though an expulsion will show up on a thorough background check, it will not be on the accused’s criminal record.

When asked about what the school is doing to prevent sexual assaults or bring light to the process for victims, Craig simply said, “nothing.”

“They do take measures to prevent, and on that note, the bystander program is a wonderful opportunity that they’ve brought to campus to teach students about sexual assault,” Craig said. “That being said, the administration can’t really prevent what happens. Because of confidentiality, they have to keep a more hushed tone about these sorts of things. That is why you don’t hear about these reports on campus.”

Craig admitted that the campus could do a much better job of making students more aware of what is going on.

“I’m one of the people that critiques the administration and the campus the most about this sort of issue. Our campus breeds a culture of silence around these sort of subjects because we are so small, so tight knit. We are unable to report without others finding out almost instantaneously,” Craig said. “The campus itself makes things so hush hush, and so not able to talk about that we often aren’t able to address those sorts of issues in the ways they need to be handled. The administration definitely could support survivors more. They could hold open panels on how to talk about this on campus and make sure that through it all that they are still being fair and they are still being objective.”

This coming Tuesday, Kondrot and other Allegheny staff members will present an informational meeting, “Information and Resources for Dealing with Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment and Assault,” at 12:15 in room 301 of the Campus Center. The program is geared to spread awareness about sexual assault and provide information about where students can go if they have been assaulted.

Other presenters include: Sue Plunkett, director of the Health Center; Jeff Schneider, director of Safety and Security; Yvonne Eaton-Stull from the Counseling Center; Joe Hall, student conduct officer and assistant director of Residence Life; and Kazi Joshua, assistant dean and director of the Center for Intercultural Advancement and Student Success.

Additionally, Allegheny’s “Bringing in the Bystander Program,” a prevention workshop for establishing a community of responsibility, has been in place for two years now. The workshop encompasses a discussion of several case studies with a small group of students about what defines sexual assault and how students can play their part in becoming a prosocial bystander.

The program defines a prosocial bystander as a person “whose behaviors intervene in ways that impact the outcome of a situation positively.” At the end of the workshop, students are given the opportunity to sign a bystander pledge.

Tim Geibel, executive director for CATA and an advocate at Women’s Services, helps lead the discussion and presentation for the bystander program at Allegheny.

“I believe they’re [bystander presentations are] important because it sheds light on topics everybody should be aware of,” Geibel said. “It’s something that unless we as a community and as a whole start to become educated in this area, we can’t end this until we know what’s going on.”

Though Allegheny seems to be trying to bring awareness to the issues, Geibel said that more can still be done.

“I think their needs to be an understanding that it happens on major and small university campuses,” Geibel said. “The college needs to be proactive in ending this epidemic of sexual violence.”

During the process of reporting a sexual assault, the case must be heard by Kondrot, who has worked at Allegheny for 25 years.

Kondrot said that her main goal is to be supportive, listen and hear what the survivor has to say. Though Kondrot is not a decision maker in the process, she is an overseer. Kondrot believes that having an overseer to help a survivor through the process is helpful because the undertaking can be emotionally difficult.

“I want students to have a lot of options,” Kondrot said.

According to Kondrot, the misconception behind sexual violence is the idea of victim blaming. This occurs when the survivor is blamed for the way he or she was acting or is told what they should have done differently.

“The first cardinal rule of this entire process it that it is not their fault,” Craig said. “Regardless of how they dressed, how much they drank, it is never the survivor’s fault.”

Craig believes that the administration can most improve the process for survivors through spreading awareness.

“I think full disclosure is important, in terms of a college like this,” Craig said. “There can’t be that sort of air of mystery around it because if you don’t know that it’s happening, if you don’t know that these assaults have happened, then you can’t do anything about it.”

Kondrot argued that it is a resource issue for Allegheny and believes that having more female security officers on campus for issues like these, and having more students receive bystander training would be most beneficial to the campus.

Geibel expressed his admiration for how the community has dealt with the bystander workshop.

“In my experience, and working with the bystander program, I’ve been very impressed with the student body and their understanding of the magnitude of sexual violence and their understanding for the need to eradicate, not just at Allegheny College, but across our country,” Geibel said. “I’ve been impressed with how the students have been and learn and to take a pledge.”


If you believe that you are a victim of sexual assault, you are encouraged to contact Safety and Security, or speak with the counseling center. You can also contact Women’s Services of Meadville at 814.724.4637.