Geneseo’s procedure for reporting sexual assault has been criticized for its failure to promote an active involvement of local law enforcement. The national average for women who experience sexual assault on college campuses as undergraduates is 23.1 percent and the average for men is 5.4 percent, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Of these sexual assault incidents, only 20 percent of females report the assault to law enforcement compared to the 32 percent of non-student females of the same age, according to RAINN. In addition, members of the LGBTQ+ community are at higher risk of sexual assault and are less likely to report the assault cases, Director of Student Care Services & Title IX Coordinator Tamara Kenney said.
The procedure for reporting sexual assault that has occurred on campus consists of a series of steps influenced by the victim’s personal requests and is in coordination with a variety of individuals and services offered on campus.
These services include organizations like RESTORE, Chances and Changes, as well as the University Police Department, Health & Counseling Center and Title IX offices. Students have a variety of options, including access to mental and physical health care, academic accommodations, support services, in addition to the option to launch a Title IX investigation, according to Kenney.
“The student who’s been harmed—the victim—has the right to participate or not participate,” she said. “That person has the right to tell us any information that they want to, so if they just want to report to us to get the services, then we’ll give them the services and if they don’t want to tell us any more than that, then we have to make a determination as to if we have danger to campus or are we able to just stop the investigation at that time, based on what the person wants.”
A sexual assault crime is anything stated under Article 130 of the New York State Penal Law, according to Livingston County District Attorney Gregory McCaffrey, who encourages involvement of local law enforcement immediately following sexual crimes.
“A lot of the students here at SUNY aren’t really from the area and obviously they might have the same friends, but they may not have the same family support, or they may blame themselves and not want to confide in their parents,” McCaffrey said. “Sometimes those cases aren’t referred to law enforcement—whether it’s to the university police or the sheriff’s office or the state police or the village police.”
McCaffrey believes it’s important to gather evidence immediately following a sexual assault incidence in order to secure the victim’s right to follow any path they may choose.
“Our biggest thing is that if someone discloses a sexual thing to us, we are here trying to assist the victim,” McCaffrey said. “Gathering the information, gathering the evidence and then having that allows the victim time to choose when they’re more comfortable to testify or to confront their accuser, or to cooperate or not cooperate with our investigation because the evidence is there.”
The cooperation between local law enforcement and the campus in sexual assault crimes needs improvement, according to McCaffrey.
“Evidence can’t wait. The victim’s ability to testify and willingness to testify—that’s stuff we can work through and talk about,” he said. “I think the college does a fantastic job with counseling services, with support services and everything else, which is good; it really is all up to the victim at that point. But again … to get the physical evidence that may be there, I think a higher priority needs to be put on that from the college’s standpoint.”
McCaffrey added that “it’s somewhat rare that these cases actually get to my office. I think a lot of times disclosures are made by victims and they are dealt with internally on campus. I think if people actually came down and saw my office and met with me or my assistants or victim coordinator and all the sheriff’s deputies, it’s really not that scary of an experience.”
McCaffrey encourages college students to reach out to law enforcement because of the long-term benefits.
“I think that’s the thing I want to stress to college students and to everyone else—that we’re not going to make you do anything, we’re here to help and we’re not going to re-victimize you,” he said. “But getting us involved, we have great subpoena power, great investigative power—there’s stuff we can do. This is what we do for a living.”