Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.
Author:
Publish date:
Occidental College in the 1920s. (Photo: Public Domain)

Occidental College in the 1920s. (Photo: Public Domain)

In 2013, after years of trying to reform the institution from the inside, faculty and students at my college submitted two complaints to the federal government. The combined 330 pages allege sexual harassment, assault, and battery on campus and argue that the college has ignored and silenced victims, mishandled adjudication, and, at times, protected men found responsible for assault. We are now under federal investigation.

Forcibly revealing Occidental College’s failings hasn’t been fun for anyone, but it has changed us. It is now easier to report assaults, we are likely more vigilant about recording those reports, and students have more knowledge about their rights. Here is what happened:

23

At the Occidental Weekly, Noel Hemphill writes that reports of sexual offenses have skyrocketed. They rose from 12 in 2011 to 64 in 2013. Over half of the cases reported were of incidents that occurred in previous years. That’s normal—victims often take a year or more to decide to come forward—but may also reflect a new desire by survivors to have their experience recorded in official statistics.

These numbers are disturbing, but it is unlikely that they reflect a rise in sexual offenses. Instead, they suggest that survivors of assault are feeling more empowered, have greater faith in their institution, and are pushing for recognition and change.

This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “Reported Sex Offenses Rise in Response to Reform at Occidental College.”

Related