Linfield sexual assault reports are fifth highest in Oregon

Camille Botello and Carson Ryder

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Here’s what’s guaranteed for survivors of sexual assault at Linfield: students will receive care and resources for recovery and they will determine the progression of the investigation. Other than that, nothing is really certain.
Annual crime reports are used to gather information about the nature of sexual assault on college campuses.
According to Linfield’s report from 2014-2016, there were 11 reported sexual assault or misconduct offenses on the McMinnville campus and 10 reported violence against women (stalking, domestic violence or dating violence) crimes on the McMinnville campus.
These statistics may not be indicative of the actual rate of assault and misconduct that happens, they only reflect the reporting rates.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, only 20 percent of college females report sexual assault and only 33 percent of sexual assaults are reported at all.

Linfield has a lower reporting rate than many other colleges in Oregon and across the country. From 2010-2012, Linfield reported 18 sexual assaults. In comparison, in the same years Portland State University reported 21, Willamette University reported 28, the University of Oregon reported 32 and Reed College reported 35 sexual assaults.

Sexual assault is a violation of Title IX, although the law is commonly known as an amendment to provide male and female students with equal athletic opportunities.

More broadly Title IX protects students from discrimination based on gender in school-sanctioned activities that receive federal funding.

“It’s important to have students feel that they can benefit from a full and equitable education. And if you’re sitting in class next to someone who has sexually assaulted you, it’s highly unlikely that can happen,” Linfield Title IX coordinator Susan Hopp said.

The specifics of Linfield’s sexual misconduct policy can be found on the college’s website. Below are some highlights of the 16-page policy.

Explicit consent, which is “freely and actively given,” is required in all sexual encounters.

A violation of the policy includes non-consensual or forced sexual contact or intercourse, sexual harassment, or engaging in sexual exploitation, domestic or dating violence, or stalking.

The code asserts that if a member of the community is accused of breaching the policy, the college will, “to the extent it is able,” support the survivor and pursue action. The school will also “attempt to provide as much anonymity” as possible for each party.

Trained Linfield investigators may undertake sexual assault and misconduct cases for as long as the accused party is enrolled at the school.

If a person is convicted of sexual assault or misconduct the college “will take appropriate remedial action that is commensurate with the severity of the offense … up to and including termination if they are an employee, and/or dismissal if they are a student.”

If requested by the survivor, Linfield officials will “attempt, where it is reasonably possible,” to provide new living and academic accommodations. College officials may assist a survivor in moving rooms or apartments and changing class schedules to avoid contact with the perpetrator.

Hopp wants to assure survivors that college officials will aid them through their healing processes.

“If a complaint is made, I can guarantee that we have examined every single one,” she said. “Every effort will be made for the survivor to receive care, support, access to every resource on and off campus, an adviser, and then whatever they want in terms of moving forward with the process.”

There are two ways to report assault and misconduct through the college. A student can submit a formal report to College Public Safety, Residence Life or Title IX deputies, which includes names of each party involved. Title IX officials in the Dean of Students office then view it.

If a survivor wishes not to be contacted about the incident, she or he may submit an anonymous report. Survivors may also be contacted even if they didn’t submit a report, since all of Linfield faculty are mandatory reporters. In this case, the survivor may choose whether to respond.

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes. Hopp said she hopes this is not because the system is untrustworthy. She worries about “the stress and psychological damage that not reporting and not seeking counseling” brings to students.

There are many reasons survivors choose not to report. Some fear retaliation, some think police or campus security can’t do much, some think their case isn’t important enough and others don’t want to charge the perpetrator.

A Linfield student who wishes to remain anonymous recounted an instance of misconduct and her decision not to report.

“Me and my friends and a few people they knew were hanging out. The next thing I knew I woke up in my friend’s bed. I barely remembered anything from the night before except one of the guys on top of me trying to kiss me, and me with my hand on his neck trying to push him off of me. I suspect that I was drugged,” she said.

“I did not report. It took me a long time to piece together the story because I did not remember much. The perpetrator still hangs out with people I know, and I felt unsafe coming forward about it because I was afraid of social backlash,” the student said.

There are fundamental differences between reporting through Linfield and reporting with the police.

Sgt Steve Macartney from the McMinnville Police Department said that there is not a definitive process people follow when reporting sexual assault with law enforcement. He said survivors may report as much or as little as they choose and that they control how an investigation progresses.

Macartney also said that a survivor may choose to re-open their case at any time, although evidence may be harder or even impossible to recover as time passes.

Sexual assault sentencing through law enforcement is evaluated based on the severity of the criminal act and the perpetrator’s criminal history, Macartney said. For instance, in some cases where sexual assault occurs, other crimes are committed that require mandatory minimum sentencing. All of this influences the sentencing of perpetrators, he said.

The student said that she wished she would have reported. “I wish I had yelled when it happened. I wish I had known how to report and done it. I wish I had trusted my gut and told someone to drive me to the hospital so I could get a blood test to find out if I had been drugged,” she said.

Reporting is only the beginning of the outcome of sexual assault. Some people have nightmares and experience depression, anger, shame, guilt, social and sexual barriers, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder after their attacks, according to the National Center for PTSD.

“I went home and I just cried and cried and laid in my bed and I felt like maybe I would never be OK again. I felt guilty because I thought that if something this terrible had happened to me it must have been somehow my fault,” the student said about the aftermath of her attack.

It is important for survivors to seek professional help if thoughts of self-harm or suicide surface. Linfield counselors and nurses in the Health and Wellness Center and the chaplain are the only officials on campus who must maintain confidentiality.

“It can happen to anyone, anywhere. If it happens to you, know this is not your fault and you are not alone. If you can find the strength to do it, I urge you to make it a big deal. Tell people it’s not funny to joke about. Look out for people who are acting inappropriately and call them out,” the student said. “This is the only way the culture will change.”

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Linfield sexual assault reports are fifth highest in Oregon