Occidental College Betrays Own Sexual Assault Policy

The college, responding to requests from students and faculty, recently agreed to implement a system whereby any time a sexual assault was reported to college authorities, the entire college community would receive an email notification to the effect. Then, two weeks ago, a sexual assault was reported, and no notification was sent out. Many were naturally outraged and organized a multi-level protest.

In response, the president of Occidental College, Jonathan Veitch, wrote a letter to the campus community. In it, he confirms what the students of Occidental fear: He is inclined to disbelieve students who report sexual assault. He writes that OxyAlerts in cases of reports of sexual assault are not “possible or desirable” because:

In the first few hours, days or even weeks, it is not always clear what has happened in incidents like these. Investigators need time to sort through conflicting accounts in order to provide a clear narrative of what took place.

By suggesting that “incidents like these” need vetting, Veitch is reproducing a bias against sexual assault victims that feminists have been trying to eradicate for decades. He is saying that sexual assault reports must be “sort[ed] through,” but reports of all other crimes can be taken at face value.

As the Ms. blog’s Lisa Wade points out, a report is just that—a report. Informing students that there has been a report of a crime does not indicate that a crime has actually been committed. No “sorting through” needs to happen to verify that a report has been filed. Veitch is—deliberately or not—conflating “reporting” and “trying”.