KWWL – “I get a report a day. A report every business day,” said Leah Gutkneckt, the Title IX officer at the University of Northern Iowa. It was her statement that inspired KWWL to dig deeper into the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses.
We looked at 4 colleges, all varying in the number of students in attendance, but all of them having some report of rape or sexual misconduct given to police.
For UNI police officer Andrea Jennings, defending yourself is all about awareness.
“If you’re aware of what’s going on around you, you can avoid the trouble then,” said Jennings.
She began teaching self-defense more than 20 years ago. Now, Jennings worries today’s students are too easily distracted.
“They’re always in their phones, they gotta pay attention,” said Jennings.
Statistically, the risk of sexual assault is greater for college women: 25% will experience some sort of attack. For men, it’s 15%. Those numbers are according to the National Sexual Assualt Resource Center.
Further research, published by the Rape, Abuse and Incest Network, shows freshmen, in particular, are at a higher risk during what’s called the “Red Zone” period which is the beginning of their first 2 semesters.
To be clear, not all reports that go through a title nine officer are sexual assaults.
Much of them fall under the umbrella of sexual misconduct and harassment.
“The awareness of the issue is certainly stronger than its ever been. The tolerance for those behaviors is less,” said Gutkneckt.
Gutknecht says more and more students are interested in training like the one where students taught bar employees about being active bystanders.
“We wanted to implement something that could reduce the numbers of sexual assaults we see both on campus and in our community,” said Jordan Weber, a UNI student who helped with that training.
Much of that training focusing on the idea of consent.
“What’ve decided to do is kinda take on consent head on,” said Margo Foreman, the Director of Equal Opportunity at Iowa State University.
Foreman led the implementation of BAE campaign on campus. Campaign flyers read “Consent: Before Anything Else.”
She also has to have conversations with students who are toeing the line.
“I’m seeing a pattern where your name is falling in, issues that are not quite sexual misconduct, but they’re not appropriate. I’m seeing your name too often,” said Foreman.
Each of these offices gets hundreds of reports, but some wonder how true these numbers are.
“The numbers are often comparable between a smaller college and a larger university, so what that tells me is that there is an underreporting problem,” said Dan Kittle, the Dean of Students are Wartburg College.
National data supports his thought, in fact, it’s believed about 90% of all sexual assaults go unreported.
Kittle says they focus a lot on helping freshmen, who we know are at a higher risk.
“First year’s kinda have this sense of what college is going to be, kinda like an “Animal House” sort of thing. That’s not what it’s like at Wartburg, I don’t think that’s what it’s like at most universities and colleges. There are a lot of pressures on first-years to participate in risky behaviors,” said Kittle.
At the University of Iowa, Monique DiCarlo says students focused on helping each other.
“That response that you get the first time you disclose, really impacts whether you keep asking for help,” said DiCarlo.
DiCarlo hopes students understand all the layers of the issue and that the risk of sexual assault isn’t based on their actions.
“There’s really only a risk if there’s somebody who’s, a perpetrator, somebody’s who coercive from a sexual misconduct perspective,” said DiCarlo.
She says society has drilled in us “stranger danger,” but an attacker is usually someone the victim knows.
Now many of those offices either investigate those reports or work directly with someone who does.
If it’s a crime they’ll work with the police.
Resources are offered both to the victim and the accused, one Title XI officer saying they act as a neutral party.
No one who reports is ever required to pursue charges or an investigation – unless its determined there is a threat to the student body as a whole.
Resources can be found below for each school:
Iowa State University
University of Iowa
University of Northern Iowa