Sexual misconduct cases most reported in MU Title IX report

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COLUMBIA - The first MU Title IX Office Annual Report shows sexual misconduct as the most reported offense from the past year.

The report stated 124 people reported they experienced sexual misconduct out of the 328 people who reported they experienced sex, gender and sexual orientation discrimination. Half of the reports of sexual misconduct was nonconsensual sexual intercourse. 

Ellen Eardley is the Title IX Administrator at MU. She explained one possible reason for sexual misconduct to be such a large portion of reports at the university is because there is more national attention on that specific issue.

"Some people don't understand that title IX is a law that prohibits all forms of sex discrimination," Eardley said. "Some students don't even realize that they could report information to our office, and one of the things that our office is doing is additional education about those opportunities to report."

Most harassment reports filed for on-campus incidents

After the category of sexual misconduct, the next highest was sexual harassment (85), dating and intimate partner violence (49), stalking on the basis of sex (31) and other (85) which included instances like hazing and bullying. 

The majority of sexual harassment reports said the harassment happened on campus (66 of the 85 reports, or 77.6 percent). 

However, most of the dating and intimate partner violence reports happened off campus (28 of 49 reports, or 57.1 percent). The reports were made primarily by female students who were in romantic relationships with males. The annual report stated the Title IX officers proceeded "with caution" in these situations because they were "aware that some people who endure intimate partner violence may still be in a relationship with the Respondent at the time a report is made."

JulieAnne Mattson is a parent of a freshmen at MU. She said the numbers of sexual misconduct are concerning, but she is not surprised. 

"They [the numbers] don't seem all that different from when I was going to school," Mattson said. "It's not surprising or shocking to me, but it is concerning."

She said she made sure to tell her daughter to be aware of her surroundings, even at a young age. 

"I would tell her to be very vigilant as she was walking and be constantly watching," Mattson said. "I was very interested to learn that the rule in her dorm is that you cannot keep your door open. It's upsetting that they have to do this cause they want to socialize, but it's a matter of safety."

Report addresses sexting, social media 

The breakdown of sexual exploitation was also explained in the study. University policy states sexual exploitation includes "allegations of predatory drugs used against a Complainant." The office received 14 reports involving drugs including instances in which people "recalled knowingly drinking a beverage (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and experiencing nausea, vomiting and feeling abnormal. 

The second most common type of sexual exploitation was invasion of privacy. This included being photographed/videotaped without their consent while nude or engaging in sexual activity or nonconsensual distribution of nude photos, or threats to distribute nude photos. 

"I want students to understand that if they send pictures that they don't have the permission to take, to someone else, then that violates our policy and we will not tolerate that here," Eardley said. 

Most of reported discriminations happened on campus

The office also determined 26 incidents could not be classified as sex discrimination, or not Title IX, because the reports were not sex-based. Also, they determined five reports were too vague to classify. Reports are determined to be "too vague" when the Title IX office gets information about an assault, but no further details are provided.

The highest number of reports happened during the month of October 2014. Eardley said there is not a significance with the month and the number of reports.

Most of reported discriminations happened on campus. The report states that 43.1 percent of people said they experienced discrimination while on campus, compared to the 33.4 percent who say they experienced it off campus. Some cases reported that individuals received discrimination purely by electronic means (5.7 percent). 

Out of the 328 people who submitted reports, four people said they experienced discrimination more than once. 

What Title IX Office has done about reports

The office said 31 formal complaints were made during the annual reporting period. An impartial investigation takes place when a formal complaint is received. After the investigation, the administrator reviews the investigation and can choose to meet with the investigator for more information, clarification or details regarding the complaint and investigation. Then, the complaint is moved to a "resolution phase" if a "reasonable person could, based on the evidence gathered, find the accused individual responsible for violating University policy."

The Title IX coordinator and administrator chose not to forward to the resolution phase on six occasions. The people who filed the complaints still received accommodations and services from on campus resources and services. 

Some accommodations included housing changes, parking or transportation and academic accommodations. Academic accommodations included working with faculty so that a student who missed a class, could make up assignments and tests , if he or she felt anxiety and depression from sexual and relationship violence.

Eardley also said the office is working with the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) center to continue on strategic accommodations. 

Danica Wolf is the coordinator at the RSVP center. She said her staff will help students explore options if they want to talk or report the circumstance. 

"I hope that folks know that if they choose to engage, in any process, they are going to be supported and respected," Wolf said.

She also said, "I hope folks don't feel pressured to speak to anyone, my office included. I want them to do what makes most sense for them."

What's next for Title IX at MU?

If moved to the resolution phase, both parties can appeal the decision of the Equity Resolution Panel and the Title IX administrator to Dr. Cathy Scroggs. Scroggs serves as the appellate officer for both the informal and formal resolution processes. During the 2014-2015 academic year, five findings were appealed. They can be considered for appeals for the following reasons:

  • procedural error that greatly impacts the outcome of formal resolution such as substantiated bias
  • to consider new evidence that was unavailable during the original hearing that could impact the original findings
  • sanctions fall outside the range typically imposed for the offense or for the cumulative conduct record of the accused

Eardley said she would not be surprised if the number of reports goes up in the next years. 

"As more students and staff and faculty know about the resources we can offer, in our office, I think that more people will feel comfortable coming forward and connecting with our office," Eardley said. 

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