At Gonzaga University sexual violence has not gone unseen. 

In the 2017 Campus Climate Survey, 2,505 GU community members answered questions about diversity, inclusion and discrimination. In this survey, a section was dedicated to gender-based discrimination, including sexual violence and misconduct. The results found that a total of 11% of respondents indicated that they had experienced unwanted sexual contact/conduct. 

If broken down further, 19% experienced relationship violence, 2% stalking, 5%  experienced unwanted sexual interaction (cat calling, repeated sexual advances, sexual harassment , etc.) 3% experienced unwanted sexual conduct (fondling, rape, sexual assault, penetration without consent) while being a member of the GU community.  

A significant portion of these incidents went unreported. Of the 5% who experienced unwanted sexual interaction, 91% did not report because it didn’t seem “serious enough.” Those who experienced relationship violence didn’t know if they could report and of those who experienced unwanted sexual conduct, 87.7% did not report the incident. 

However, all students are protected under Title IX to not experience such discrimination. So what does it look like when their Title IX rights are infringed upon? 

Title IX Director Stephanie Whaley is in charge of responding to reports of such infringement at GU. 

The process is first started by completing a report, which can be filed online at www.gonzaga.edu/sexualmisconduct or by calling:

  • Whaley: (509) 313-6910;
  • Title IX Investigator, Matt Nelson: (509) 313-3998
  • Center for Cura Personalis: (509) 313-2227 
  • Campus Security & Public Safety: (509) 313-2222

“Many of our reports come from concerned friends, faculty, parents,”  Whaley said. “Oftentimes when we’re getting reports, we are wanting to make sure they are aware of their resources and let them know a report has been made [on their behalf].”

Because all staff and faculty are required by university policy to be mandatory reporters, they must tell Whaley the information that has been shared with them. This information leads to a reach out to the concerned parties to see if they want to move forward with a complaint or investigation." 

“We have a policy here to have all reports reported to me, mainly because most of the faculty, staff are not trained to be able to work with a student in crisis, or know what the appropriate resources are,” she said. 

Once someone has filed a report for themselves, or one was done on behalf of someone, Whaley begins by doing a check-in. This is where Whaley will connect the person with services and notify the other party of the report being filed against them while also connecting them to the same resources. 

The accused is connected with an adviser, while Gonzaga Lutheran Community Services University Confidential Campus Advocate Kerri Handley is one of the resources that is connected with the victim.

Handley is a Washington State Certified Crime Victim Advocate which means she was trained and certified to be a confidential resource to victims who may be looking for support. With her certification, communication between her and her clients is privileged. 

“If a student chooses to move forward in the disciplinary process or reporting on campus, I can be there every step of the way for them, sometimes I am able to help coordinate the initial meetings, and for interested students even arrange to have our facility dog present to provide support as they begin the reporting/investigative process on campus, and I can follow their case through completion and beyond,” she said. 

Whaley also connects the parties involved with GU’s Health and Counseling services. 

“We are a confidential office on campus,” said Libby Skiles, assistant dean of Student Well-Being & Healthy Living. "We don’t report or share any information that is disclosed to a counselor or other clinician with Title IX or any other University office." 

Along with free counseling, the health center also provides STI testing, other clinical care in follow up to any incident that occurs, Skiles said. For faculty and staff, counseling and health services are provided through their benefit packages, according to Whaley. 

Health and Counseling, however, is a confidential resource just like Handley. Information shared with those resources is not shared unless there is imminent danger, or if the person is a minor. 

After the report is filed, the is a legal obligation to have it investigated. 

“[Reports are] investigated [through the] Title IX office,” Whaley said. “All we do is collect the information, organize it into a report and make a determination on whether there is significant enough information to forward it on for a hearing.” 

Reports are closed if there no evidence to support the accusation that came forward, or if there is evidence that contradicts what was written in the report. Eye-witness accounts, photos or record of communication is all evidence.

As long as there is enough evidence to support that there is a 50% likelihood the events occurred then the case will move onto a hearing that is conducted by a group of three faculty and staff volunteers. 

“[There is] a collection of faculty and staff on campus who have been specifically trained to be panelists on those type of university conduct boards,” Whaley said. 

Panelists are trained on how to weigh evidence and determine if someone is responsible. 

According to Whaley, there are specific rights that are given to parties involved in Title IX cases. Such as right to share their side, an investigation, counsel — legal or familial — and to be notified of any meetings being held in regards to the report. 

Once the hearing concludes and a decision is made, consequences are determined on a case-by-case basis. 

“Student can’t get in trouble with Title IX, they can get in trouble for violating school policy,” Whaley said. “Title IX just makes sure that  policy is aligned with the law."

"It all comes back to ensuring students feel heard, are supported and empowered, and they understand they do not have to go through this alone," Handley said.

To receive any current help, Zags are welcomed to contact Whaley or Handley can be reached at 509.342.8564 or at GUadvocate@lcsnw.org for any confidential help. For confidential, anonymous help Lutheran Community Services  24/7 advocacy support number for survivors call 509.624.7273.

 

 

Katie Kales is a news editor.

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