Survivor’s experiences : choosing to report or investigate sexual assault at Whitman College
May 10, 2017
Department or Program
Sexual assault on college campuses is a social health and safety problem that deserves further investigation (Krebs and Lindquist 2007). At Whitman College, there is a steady increase in reports of sexual assault, however it is common knowledge that the number of assaults exceeds the number of assaults that are reported and investigated. This thesis aims to discover whether there is something preventing Whitman students from reporting their sexual assaults or opening an investigation in the Title IX process, and if so, what prevents students from reporting their sexual assaults or opening an investigation into their assaults? Through a survey of sexual assault victims on the Whitman campus, this study finds that Whitman students who have experienced sexual assault on campus report feeling many cultural and social pressures when deciding whether to file a Title IX report or open a Title IX investigation. These pressures include self-blame and shame, guilt, victim blaming, rape myth acceptance, internalized rape myth acceptance, fear of retaliation, uncertainty/confusion, hesitance to report acquaintance assault, fear of re-victimization, depression, severe anxiety, strained personal relationships, a feeling of loss of control, and skepticism of the institutional response in the wake of their assault. They also experience: difficulty dealing with emotions from the assault in conjunction with daily social norms and expectations; difficulty functioning within the college institution as an assault victim; fear of re-victimization when disclosing their assault with support systems; perceptions of and experiences of institutional betrayal in the wake of the assault (including dissatisfaction with institutional support systems); and negative impressions of Title IX processes and Title IX administration at Whitman College. Suggestions to alleviate the negative experiences of a sexual assault survivor on the Whitman College campus are offered.