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The Missing 47

[whitespace] Gillian Greensite
George Sakkestad

Santa Cruz Confidential: Rape Prevention director Gillian Greensite says UCSC's Sex Offense Policy discourages rape survivors from coming forward.

Rape survivor advocates worry UCSC's revamped Sex Offense Policy promotes silence around sexual assault

By Mary Spicuzza

WHEN UC-SANTA CRUZ student Tori Porter laid 47 flowers on the doorstep of her campus' top administrator, they were hardly a thank-you gift. Porter and a group called Students for Confidentiality carried the flowers to UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood's home after winding through campus in the spring of 1997 to protest the university's Sex Offense Policy. Students for Confidentiality, which also sent more than 1,000 postcards to Greenwood, has set its sights on one goal--restoring confidentiality for rape survivors using UCSC's Rape Prevention Education program. To some it may be a battle over a few words of campus policy, but for Porter it's a fight against silence.

When the protest ended, all that remained was the huge bouquet with a small note attached. It read, "These are to symbolize the missing 47."

The "missing 47" refers to a sharp drop in the number of students using UCSC's 20-year-old Rape Prevention Education program, the main on-campus resource for students who've been raped. After the university changed its confidentiality policy in 1994, the average of 50 students a year using the program following a rape or sexual assault suddenly plummeted to three through the spring of 1997. Although in the last academic year nine students sought help from Rape Prevention director Gillian Greensite, the numbers have remained far lower than when the program had confidentiality.

Each year, Greensite talks with half of the student body about rape prevention and awareness at workshops, rallies and orientation presentations across campus. Prior to 1994, Greensite's office provided only statistics to university officials, unless there was an immediate threat to campus safety. Under the new policy, Greensite's mandatory reports to the campus Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office still do not include survivors' names. But Greensite is required to report details from conversations with students assaulted on campus, including the name of the alleged rapist and whether drugs or alcohol were involved.

In most circumstances an investigation won't be initiated without the consent of a survivor, the policy states, but the university "cannot make an absolute guarantee that the information regarding a possible sex offense will remain completely confidential." Title IX records of sex offenses are open to the complainant and the accused, and to university officials with a "relevant and necessary" reason--and may be given in response to supoenas or court orders.

Even though the rape survivors retain their anonymity under the new rules, Greensite and other survivor advocates see the new requirements as dangerous roadblocks to helping students who've been assaulted.

"For those seeking help after rape, the first few moments are crucial," Greensite says. "If I answer the phone and a student is crying at the other end, it is off-putting in the extreme to have to explain the policy before I can respond to her emotions. If I fail to do so right at the beginning, then she may inadvertently say something she does not want passed on."

"After rape many victims feel vulnerable and exposed as though the whole world can tell they have been raped," Greensite continues. "To regain control and feel secure they need to trust that no information will be shared or passed on without their permission. If the safety of other students is ever an issue, I have always consulted with the administration."

The Sex Offense Policy is part of an attempt by campus administrators to correct a long history of problems with UCSC's handling of sex offenses.

While the school has one of the top women's studies departments in the country as well as professors who are key figures in the feminist movement, an investigation by the federal Office of Civil Rights in 1994 uncovered numerous violations of federal law in UCSC's handling both of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

After several students who were raped on campus filed complaints with the federal agency, OCR investigators found problems including unclear information about sex offense policies, poor recordkeeping and inconsistent disciplinary procedures. For example, they discovered that one student found guilty of rape was given only a one-year suspension, while another was allowed quietly to withdraw and enroll on another UC campus, without a mark on his permanent record.

In response to the investigation and changing federal laws about campus crime reporting, a chancellor-appointed committee undertook a broad restructuring of campus policy. Greensite now reports to Title IX officer Rita Walker.

Title IX is the federal law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, and has historically specialized in protecting students from sexual harassment. UCSC's Title IX office handles all campus investigations of both sexual harassment and sexual assault, and advises students about their options for handling "unwanted sexual behavior."

Anita Diaz, executive director of Student Health Services, says the new policy and stricter reporting requirements are steps toward improving campus safety. But Tori Porter, now a third-year sociology major, doesn't believe the policy is in the best interests of students who've been raped--or of the university community. With the rape of a jogger on a UCSC fire trail in September and the attempted assault on another female student in early October, Porter worries that rape survivors aren't reaching out for support because Rape Prevention Education's confidentiality has been taken away.

"Rape is such a difficult issue to deal with, and it's hard enough to tell one person," Porter says. "Without knowing where that information will go, I personally would walk out."

She points to the "missing 47" as evidence of a growing silence surrounding rape at UCSC.

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Resources for survivors of sexual assault.

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Lessons Learned

WHILE THE UNIVERSITY's Sex Offense Policy has clearly been shaped by changing federal legislation, it's also a direct result of a campuswide Office for Civil Rights investigation of UCSC in 1994. The investigation was initiated by a group of faculty and students on behalf of nine student survivors of rape or sexual harassment on the UCSC campus who objected to the university's handling of their cases.

In an article in the June 1994 issue of Monthly Bulletin, published by the Office for Civil Rights, the federal agency detailed its investigation at UCSC.

"Sometimes even when educational institutions undertake extensive efforts to educate their community about the issue of sexual harassment ... the institutions fail to accomplish the results they work so hard to achieve," the article begins. "Such was the case with the University of California at Santa Cruz."

The article presents a laundry list of problems in campus policy. Violations of federal law included limited availability of information about filing complaints, due process rights focused on the rights of the accused at the expense of the victims' rights and judgmental statements made by university officials to students alleging they'd been raped.

"I don't want to scapegoat the boys," a campus investigator told a woman who had been gang-raped. "They're not bad, just barrio kids."

In another case, an investigator interviewed an alleged rapist before the complainant--without knowing specific details about the charges against him.

Federal investigators also found poor guidance of staffers about handling sex offense complaints. A doctor repeatedly accused of inappropriately touching female students was prevented from practicing in one-on-one settings, with no mention of discipline or counseling.

The investigation shook UCSC. The campus, which had long been thought of as a feminist haven, was held up as a national example of how not to handle sex offenses. Still, some argued the Office for Civil Rights could have delved deeper into problems.

The rape survivor identified as 'OCR Student 1' wrote in a campus newsletter, "I believe the OCR was not harsh enough in its report on this school."

Santa Cruz Confidential

DESPITE CHANGES in reporting requirements brought about by the new Sex Offense Policy, campus officials clearly agree with Greensite that confidentiality is important to rape survivors.

In June 1997, Chancellor Greenwood sent a message to the campus community, insisting that the university is dedicated to privacy for rape survivors.

"I want to reassure you unequivocally that prompt and professional rape crisis intervention counseling is available to all members of the campus community, whether female or male--and it is completely confidential," Greenwood writes. "This statement is in response to misleading, inaccurate and potentially harmful information that has been circulated recently." Greenwood was not available for comment.

Yet the disagreement is over just who is entitled to complete confidentiality.

According to the UCSC Sex Offense Policy, federal law requires that all university officials, except those with "significant counseling responsibilities," report to Rita Walker at the Title IX/Sexual Harassment Office. This "timely warning" law requires a report within 48 hours of learning of a sexual assault or sexual harassment.

"At UCSC, the only university employees with significant counseling responsibilities are psychologists working for Counseling and Psychological Services," the 1996-1997 Sexual Harassment Report states.

"Since peer educators, peer advocates and the faculty can be confidential, why not the one person on campus hired specifically to provide crisis intervention support?" Greensite asks. Greensite says she has worked with over 700 rape survivors during her 20 years at UCSC.

Diaz says that the details required in Greensite's reports mainly serve to distinguish one reported incident from another. Since the federal Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, there has been a nationwide emphasis on ensuring that universities provide campus crime statistics to the public. Requiring details from students who discuss on-campus incidents with Rape Prevention Education is meant to comply with this law while preventing the double-reporting of incidents, says Diaz.

Diaz says the details also help protect students and allow Title IX officer Rita Walker to determine whether there is an immediate risk to campus safety.

Greensite believes survivors' fear that details of a report will be revealed to their attackers is furthering the silence around rape. Under the old policy, details of a rape were only recorded if a student made the decision to press charges.

Tori Porter
George Sakkestad

Hold the Flowers: Third-year sociology major Tori Porter and other members of Students for Confidentiality want Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood to change campus policy on sexual assault.

Chilling Effects

LINDA BLOOMBECKER, a local licensed marriage, family and child counselor who's worked with rape survivors for 25 years, says she doesn't see UCSC's policy as a benefit to survivors or the campus community.

"I've seen rape awareness programs come so far since I got involved in New York Women Against Rape in 1975. I feel like we're taking a step backwards," BloomBecker says. "This is no time to be cutting back on confidential resources. We should be expanding them."

BloomBecker believes that Greensite's high visibility on campus makes her an approachable resource for students, but says campus policy undermines Greensite's ability to be effective. BloomBecker's doctoral research about the effects of rape on couples and partners of survivors is to be published next year as a book titled Shared Trauma: Long-Term Effects of Rape on Couples. According to BloomBecker, women who sought specialized counseling from survivor advocates like Greensite fared better than those in general therapy.

"In any counseling setting, people need to feel like they are in charge of the situation. Rape survivors especially need to feel that they can choose who that information will go to, when and how," says BloomBecker, who was raped while she was a college undergraduate.

She says that any policy that compromises confidentiality for rape survivors will have a "chilling effect," meaning fewer students will come forward for help.

This echoes Greensite's primary objection to the Sex Offense Policy, which was drafted by a campus committee that she says never consulted with her.

Greensite, who has butted heads with administrators on a number of issues, has received support from survivor advocates at other universities. The Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, UCSC's 1996 Committee on Academic Freedom, and Rape Prevention Educators from the University of New Hampshire have written letters advocating confidentiality for Rape Prevention Education.

When she first heard about the change in UCSC's policy, Robin Johnson, director of Rape Prevention Education for UC-Riverside, wrote to Chancellor Greenwood, "It is the job of the rape prevention director to assist the survivor in rebuilding a trust of others. ... My experience with rape survivors shows that by narrowing confidential choices to only psychological counselors and the Title IX Office, the investigative arm of the university, fewer students will come forward and seek help."

Silent Crimes

THE UNIVERSITY of California system is not alone in the problem of sexual assault. Surveys by on- and off-campus rape crisis centers indicate that approximately 25 percent of female students nationwide are sexually assaulted at some point during their undergraduate years. The majority of those assaults--about 80 percent--are acquaintance rapes committed by another student. Yet it's estimated only 4 percent of rapes are reported to the police.

While survivor advocates agree that accurate reporting of campus crime statistics is important, they say the small number of survivors who report sexual assaults reveals a dangerous silence surrounding rape--and the need for confidential resources.

Katie Koestner, founder and education director for Campus Outreach Services, says that rape survivors have a special need for confidentiality because of the shame, guilt and self-blame often experienced by survivors.

"We do not live in a society where a survivor is treated with neutrality," Koestner says. "Rape has an enormous stigma around it. It would be expected that there would be a drop in reporting if students cannot be assured of confidentiality."

Koestner made national headlines in 1991 after going public about being sexually assaulted by another student while she was a student at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Through high-visibility appearances on the cover of Time magazine and on NBC's Nightly News, CNN and numerous talk shows, she has helped give a name and face to a crime often wrapped in silence.

Koestner has since founded Campus Outreach Services and has worked with more than 450 college campuses, high schools and military bases across the country--helping institutions handle the issue of sexual assault. Koestner and Brett Sokolow, the organization's executive director, have co-written several books about sexual assault on college campuses.

In a letter to Chancellor Greenwood, Koestner and Sokolow urged that the administration restore confidentiality to Rape Prevention Education.

"Students need more access to campus resources like Ms. Greensite, not less," they wrote. "From an outsider's perspective, it looks like the effect of such mandatory reporting has been to discourage the reporting of campus sexual violence, though that was not your intention, of course."

Yet UCSC director of public information Elizabeth Irwin explains that administrators believe students are seeking out other resources--but that numbers are not available because counselors do not report statistics.

"If students are not using Rape Prevention Education, we can only assume they are using one of the many resources available to students," Irwin says. "I think the question that needs to be asked is, 'Is there a 47 to be missing?'"

Down by Law

IRWIN SAYS the decision to take away confidentiality for Rape Prevention Education was required by federal law. But the campus interpretation of law is also in dispute. Campus Outreach Services' Sokolow claims federal law does not require that Rape Prevention Education report anything more than statistics.

"The timely warning requirement of the Campus Security Act of 1994 does not extend to reports made to residential assistants, deans, counselors or student advocates like Gillian Greensite," Sokolow says.

At his Campus Outreach Services office near Philadelphia, Pa., Sokolow is aware of the controversy around UCSC's confidentiality policy.

According to Sokolow, Greensite is only required by federal law to report numbers for statistical purposes--unless there is an immediate threat to campus safety.

The Campus Security Act, passed after Congress agreed that "students and employees of institutions of higher education should be aware of the incidence of crime on campus," is focused mainly on gathering statistics. Initially it only required timely warnings to the campus community for crimes reported to "campus security or local law enforcement agencies," but was later amended to include other "campus officials."

Although UCSC has interpreted the law to mean only certified counselors at Counseling and Psychological Services have "significant counseling responsibilities," other universities place rape prevention directors like Greensite in that category.

Jennifer Beeman, director of Rape Prevention Education for UC-Davis, says she has never been required to give any information beyond statistics to the campus administration. Beeman has served as director of the program for six years after receiving a bachelor's degree in social work. She says her campus only asks that she report statistics, or give "timely warning" if she perceives an immediate threat to campus safety. Her program is a separate department rather than a program of student health services, as is the case at UCSC, and sees an average of 150-200 students each year.

UCSC has offered to give Greensite confidentiality if she takes rape crisis-intervention classes to become a certified counselor. But Greensite teaches those classes.

Every University of California campus except UCSC treats its Rape Prevention Education program as a confidential resource.

Balancing Acts

DEBORAH, A RECENT re-entry student at UCSC, was sexually assaulted by another student on campus 12 years ago. She says that for a long time she felt like all control had been taken away from her, and she has only recently returned to school to finish her degree. Deborah remembers Greensite as a strong advocate and a main source of support after the assault, adding that she held on to Greensite's number for more than 10 years and has gone back to seek support since returning to college.

"It's taken me this long to talk about it to anyone else, and it was 12 years ago. It takes a long time," Deborah says, her voice choking with tears. "If during your first attempts to speak your information is out of your control ... I would shut down. This policy seems that it's not serving the population it is designed to service, that it's not respecting basic rights."

Critics of university policy concede that navigating the need for survivor services, confidentiality and campus crime awareness is a delicate balancing act. But they argue that the notion of choosing between the two is a false choice. Campus Outreach Services says that providing confidentiality for Rape Prevention Education would require only a small modification in campus policy and would not violate federal law.

"A lot of people don't get that the biggest issue for survivors of sexual assault is a lack of control," Deborah says. "A survivor needs to regain that sense of control. I fight for it every day."

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From the November 12-18, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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