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Kalamazoo College
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Sexual Misconduct Information

Sexual misconduct, an umbrella term that refers to any kind of non-consensual sexual contact (everything from touching to violent assault), can be a hard topic to understand and manage.  If your student is involved in a case of alleged misconduct, as a complainant/survivor or as an accused student, it can be very difficult on many levels.  Families often feel helpless, which may be the most difficult feeling of all.

The Kalamazoo College Title IX website - https://reason.kzoo.edu/titleix/ - has numerous resources and helpful information.  Please visit it, and please pay special attention to the “Help for Sexual Assault” link along the left side of the page, and to the “Student Sexual Misconduct Resource Guide” link under K Resources near the bottom of the right side of the page.

Here we seek to provide essential information for families in a brief format.

  • The primary interest of the College is in preventing unwanted sexual contact from occurring - preventing students from perpetrating it and preventing students from being subjected to it.  Students of all genders and sexual orientations can perpetrate and be victimized by students of all genders and sexual orientations. 
  • Sexual misconduct is the most under-reported behavioral matter on college campuses, for many reasons – not knowing if something constitutes sexual misconduct, fear of not being believed, a feeling that the survivor is responsible in some way, shame, uncertainty due to incomplete memory and/or own level of intoxication, fear that reporting will bring social shunning, peer pressure, fear that others will overreact or try to control the survivor’s decisions, and many more.
  • Consent is the key issue in sexual misconduct.  We encourage all students to seek and get sober, lucid, and enthusiastic consent for any desired activity at every point a sexual/romantic interaction.  Anything other than a “yes” should be interpreted as a “no.”  Since alcohol intoxication is involved in nearly every case of alleged sexual misconduct at Kalamazoo College, this issue can be murky to reasonable and caring people. 
  • Intoxication does not mean students who are sexually assaulted “deserve it” or are responsible for it.  Nor is it an excuse for an alleged perpetrator.  Sexual misconduct or assault is not a penalty anyone should “pay” for being intoxicated, whether they are the alleged perpetrator or the alleged victim. 
  • Some estimates suggest that up to 20% of college women and up to 10% of college men are subjected to unwanted sexual contact during their time in college.

The following factors can place students at risk for perpetrating sexual misconduct:

  • Use of alcohol or other drugs that impair judgment
  • “Hooking up” with unfamiliar persons
  • Peer pressure, real or perceived
  • Not communicating clearly about wishes and expectations
  • Not seeking clear, unambiguous consent for specific activities
  • Ignoring “stop” signs during a sexual encounter – silence and non-response mean “stop”
  • Assuming consent when none is given or has been sought, not recognizing that consent can change during the course of a single encounter

The following factors can place students at risk for being subjected to sexual misconduct:

  • Use of alcohol or other drugs that impair judgment
  • Being in an unfamiliar social setting
  • “Hooking up” with unfamiliar persons
  • Feeling pressured to engage in sexual activity or feeling like everyone else is doing it
  • Feeling lonely or depressed, being separated from friends in a social setting
  • Fearing the loss of a relationship if one doesn’t agree to sexual contact
  • Not communicating clearly about wishes and expectations

If your student discloses that they have been subjected to sexual contact without their consent, you can be supportive in the following ways:

  • Believe them and let them give you their account in their own way and time.  Listen.
  • If they are not in a safe place, help them get to one.
  • Let them know that you are sorry that this happened, that you love them, and that you will support them no matter what they decide.
  • Understand that this will be a major disruption in their life – personally, socially, and academically, at a minimum.
  • Encourage them to get medical attention if they need it and to get mental health support (from the Counseling Center, if they are at K: https://reason.kzoo.edu/counseling/.) 
  • Understand that their initial reaction and feelings may change over time.  Be patient.
  • Do not tell them what to do.  Encourage them to make the decisions that are right for them and support them in doing so.  Encourage them to talk with someone in the Office of the Dean of Students to understand what their options are.  Options include confidential consultation, formally reporting to the College with a variety of potential resolution processes, and filing a police report.  
  • Friends can complicate things in unhelpful ways.  Help your student be aware of this.
  • Be sure that you have good support in place as you work through your own feelings – of helplessness, anger, sadness, frustration, to name a few. 

If your student has been accused of sexual misconduct, you can be supportive in the following ways:

  • Believe them and let them give you their account in their own way and time.  Listen.
  • Let them know that you love them and that you support them.
  • Encourage them to get mental health support (from the Counseling Center, if they are at K: https://reason.kzoo.edu/counseling/.)
  • Understand that this will be a major disruption in their life – personally, socially, and academically, at a minimum.
  • If they are facing College disciplinary charges, encourage them to work with an advisor to prepare.  Also, encourage them to talk with someone in the Office of the Dean of Students to ensure that they have accurate information about the student conduct process.
  • Friends can complicate things in unhelpful ways.  Help your student be aware of this.
  • Be sure that you have good support in place as you work through your own feelings – of helplessness, anger, sadness, frustration, and fear, to name a few. 

Your Role

The issues surrounding the range of sexual misconduct are complicated and students respond in some predictable ways and some unpredictable ways. 

Whether a student has been subjected to sexual misconduct or accused of it, they are sometimes reluctant to tell their families for fear of overreaction, blaming, over involvement, or some kind of penalty or punishment. 

You can be most helpful by listening, supporting, and caring for your student.  While sexual misconduct is not an issue you can “solve” for your student, you can assure them of your love and support as they work their way through the issue.

Encourage them to use campus resources (information available at the links above), and feel free to contact us if you have questions about college processes and options.  Do not, though, attempt to control decisions that need to rest with your student.  This is typically the single hardest thing for any loved one. 

Do what you do best.  Love and support your student.