Sexual harrassment and abuse reported in Wayne

Halleigh Hawkins, Staff Writer

As the #MeToo movement has come to open many eyes this past year, recent reports have come to the air in Wayne, NE. According to Title IX Coordinator David McMahan at Wayne State College, there have been 23 instances reported this year. Of those 23 reported, four of them have qualified for a Title IX incident.

There is a clear division between sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Sexual harassment is defined as a “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” There are two ways that a student may be impacted by harassment, one being pro quo, something for something, and the second being hostile environment. These will both deprive a student from accessing their educational rights.

It is a quid pro quo, which includes a college employee for unwanted sexual action in trade for “provision of an aid, benefit, or service,” which is defined by the Clery Act under the 3020 policy, which is discussed further on. It also includes “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, persuasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program of activity.”

“Preponderance of evidence is how we make our determination on responsibility,” McMahan said. “So it has to be, more likely than not, that someone is responsible for a violation. We don’t prove innocence and we don’t prove guilt. We prove, on preponderance of evidence, that they violated our policy.”

Sexual abuse is defined as when the victim doesn’t consent to any type of sexual activity or contact. This can be forceful or threatening. Sexual abuse does include rape and sexual coercion.

“Most of the issues [reported] had to do with incivility, or we have a number in there that are stalking issues,” McMahan said. “And students have reported that they are getting unwanted attention and then we talked to them about whether they were communicated that this is unwanted and unwelcome attention.”

Confronting the supposed stalker may not be the right idea if the person is concerned about their danger. If this is the case, there are people to help guide where to go next. Mandatory reporters here on campus include the president, vice presidents, the deans of academic programs, the college Title IX Coordinator, Housing and Residence Life Staff, coaches and assistant coaches, and Campus Security. Other options would include just going to the hospital, where a sexual assault team nurse would be able to assist the victim, or the Haven House.

“In other cases it may move from an inquiry then to an investigation,” McMahan said. “What’s being alleged does arise to a Title IX issue, so even though the other behaviors may be referred out to other student conduct or something under resolved or roommate issues, if it’s Title IX allegation, then we’ll move to an investigation process.”

The people on campus, including McMahan, can discuss further options and even talk with the person about different issues. McMahan will let the accused perpetrator know that there is a no contact order in place and tell the two parties to separate in order to pursue their academics.

Since McMahan is the Title IX coordinator at WSC, he deals with all of the sexual harassment and abuse incidents and reviews them. Most of the cases that were reported this year were resolved by speaking with both parties and trying to separate them from each other. Ways to be separated can go as far as moving residence halls.

“What we have moved to more in education is talking to people about how can we as a culture and a community not be involved in the rape culture,” McMahan said.

Getting the word out and sharing information on rape or how to report is progressing at WSC. Since McMahan has only been here for a year and a half, he is learning how to spread the information. Speaking with athletes and students at freshman orientation, training the RA’s, and other programs on campus help people understand that reporting is not a bad thing. He is teaching how people can set boundaries and feel comfortable coming forth to share their story.

As four out of the 23 incidents reported rose to be potential Title IX issues, this can be a good sign as there are being reported issues even if they do not rise to that level. This can be looked at as a positive, yet negative, aspect because more people are feeling comfortable in reporting incidents, yet the number still fluctuates. The college has 60 days to investigate the problem at hand from the time the incident is reported.

“As a society we still have quite a bit of victim blaming,” Michelle Meyer, volunteer at the Haven House said. “Even when individuals come forward there is a lot of statistical evidence that individuals wait a long time to come forward and that’s not unusual, but we did see in the highly publicised Supreme Court hearing with Judicial nominee [Brett] Kavanaugh that Christine Blasey Ford, her allegations were not believed.”

The sexual assault team at the hospital is made up of three nurses who are qualified under the State of Nebraska to specifically help sexual assault victims. One of the sexual assault team nurses, Melissa Moody, is someone who will help the victim along the process.

“We do check [the victim] in at the ER and assess them at the ER, but then we do intake, which is all the sexual assault kits and the paperwork, [which] is all through the state,” Moody said. “So we’ll do our intake questionnaire, which goes over everything. So we ask every kind of question about how they were sexually assaulted, so it can go pretty in depth and it goes kind of graphic. But we figure out how they were assaulted and we do get their story.”

Having the victim tell their story is very time consuming because the nurses will write down everything the victim tells them. The nurses might also have to do a vaginal exam or take pictures if it is needed for documentation reasons. There is also a 12 step kit where the nurses collect all the evidence they need, which can include ecaming clothing, taking swabs, or looking at pictures.

“You do have the ability to choose, which is new, to file anonymously,” Moody said. “You can come here, we can file a kit. It is completely anonymous, you are just a number and so that way, down the road if you choose to prosecute, you have that option.”

If the victim calls Campus Security, they will document the report and pass the information on to the Title IX Coordinator, McMahan. If it is requested by the victim, Campus Security will contact law enforcement and utilize those resources in order to help the victim in any way possible.

“[To try and prevent sexual harassment] we try and get out into the resident halls and provide educational material on dating violence, sexual assault, rape,” Jason Mrsny, security manager for Campus Security, said. “And we also have a RAD program, and RAD stands for Rape, Aggression, Defense, and it is a program that is for females to take and we cover topics such as dating violence, sexual assault, rape, [and] the effects of social media.”

The victim can also contact the Haven House here in Wayne to receive other options. There were 54 reports of sexual assault in the 2018 calendar year. In 2017, there were only 27 reports of sexual harassment. This can be caused by many things, including more people getting the courage to come forward and tell their story.

According to Meyer, there is no way of knowing why that increase is so substantial. There could be an increase in incidents happening or an increase in individuals that are willing to come forward and report, but there is just no way of knowing which it is.

“Sometimes our awareness is more anecdotal, related to individuals, maybe sharing stories, but not necessarily reporting them to a specific authority,” Meyer said.

There are two different policies that deal with the guidance for students if they are sexually harassed or abused.

The 3020 Policy, which is also implemented for Chadron State College and Peru State College along with Wayne State College, implies how to take appropriate action if someone is sexually harassed, abused, stalked, and even dating violence. These actions are all defined under this policy, which can be found online on the WSC website.

This policy implements an atmosphere free of discrimination, harassment, or violence. It gives rights to the colleges to implement certain actions on the accused and provide services to the victims. There will be appropriate action taken to prevent and discipline the violent behavior under the policies of equal opportunities and access. It provides guidance for victims of sexual violence or harassment. This policy does apply to students even if they are involved with a fellow student, an employee, or third party. The colleges are responsible for treating the accused perpetrator with fairness.

The 3200 Policy grants due process to students accused of misconduct under Policy 3100. This regards allegations of academic dishonesty, grade appeals, failure to pay financial obligation, or academic performance, achievement, probation and suspension. The due process procedure is outlined as followed.

The student will be notified in writing by an appropriate college official that he/she is accused of misconduct of school policy. The student then has a few options on what action to take next such as admitting the violation and request that the college take whatever action they deem appropriate. The student can also admit to the violation and then request a hearing by the hearing panel of the college to determine appropriate actions. Or the student can deny the allegations in which the college official will refer the student to the hearing panel to determine the appropriate action. Under the 3200 policy, if the hearing is concerning a violation under Conduct 3020, the college’s Title IX Coordinator will present evidence, or their findings, to the hearing panel.

In 2010 Nebraska released The State Plan to Prevent Sexual Violence in Nebraska, which is the framework for how sexual violence can be prevented. The goals of this plan are to promote healthy relationships and behaviors for Nebraska’s youth, increase public community awareness about the impact of sexual violence, and to increase public awareness about state and local resources promoting the prevention of sexual violence. This plan presents school based strategies suited for prevention efforts.

This plan includes the whole state of Nebraska, so it is suiting to look at the goals and see how it is working especially since now is the future of this goal. Since this plan came out in 2010, the rates of sexual harassment and abuse has fluctuated. Between 2008 and 2012, Nebraska colleges reported 88 sexual harassment incidents on their annual crime reports. There is really no way of knowing why this number increases or decreases each year.

“We have more reports coming in this year and that is not because of more incidents,” said McMahan. “The reality of sexual assault and Title IX issues is that they are horribly under reported nationally.”

People tend not to report due to self blame and concern of communication in society. We have people putting keys in between fingers at night, not walking alone around campus, not drinking and women trying not dress in a provocative way. These examples are not rape prevention; that is response.

Wayne State College is committed to upholding the Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 that includes no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Title IX specifically concerns institutions, not students. This ensures that all students, regardless of sex, are able to participate in programs and activities. Colleges will continue to develop and apply their own codes of conduct for students