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School officials at Carroll County's two colleges say they are prepared to comply with new federal laws in transparency, education and reporting of sexual violence on campuses by the Oct. 1 "good faith" deadline.

McDaniel College administrators say their policies and procedures put them at the forefront of colleges working to ensure their campus is safe from sexual violence. And at Carroll Community College, where there has never been a reported incident of sexual violence, administrators say their system is on board to comply with the standards.

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Last year, amendments to the Clery Act under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 required colleges and universities to help bolster the response to and prevention of sexual violence in higher education.

The amendment, called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, requires public and private colleges and universities participating in federal student aid programs to increase transparency in the scope of sexual violence, guarantee victims enhanced rights, provide standard judicial conduct proceeding and provide campus-communitywide educational programming.

The Clery Act — which requires colleges to report all sexual offenses annually — defines them as either forcible, including rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, fondling and forcible fondling; or nonforcible.

In March, new amendments to the Clery Act were passed into law; however, the regulations will not be submitted by the U.S. Department of Education until November. By Oct. 1, colleges and universities are expected to comply to a "good faith" measure and publish all incidents from the previous year in the annual security report.

The report includes crime statistics from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 calendar years.

Between 2004 and 2012, there were 19 sexual offenses reported on McDaniel's campus. In the same time frame, zero have been reported at Carroll Community, a commuter campus without dorms.

New measures under Clery

Under the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, colleges will be required to collect and report additional statistics including domestic violence, dating violence and stalking occurring within and adjacent to campus, noncampus properties such as off-campus student organization housing and remote classrooms.

Educational institutions must adopt and publish guidelines affording all students and staff rights should they decide or not decide to pursue a formal complaint involving sexual violence.

These guidelines include possible sanctions, notification about counseling and mental health services, legal assistance and victim advocacy.

The college or university must also make changes to academic, living, transportation and working situations within reason.

Colleges must also have guidelines for judicial conduct proceedings on campus to deal with the sexual offense, and they must provide new and ongoing education prevention and awareness programs for all students and employees.

All measures go into effect at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, and colleges and universities must show their compliance by Oct. 1. Institutions may face penalties of up to $35,000 per violation if found to be in violation of the Clery Act after the new regulations are finalized.

Fewer incidents at Carroll colleges

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Carroll Community College administrators credit their lack of sexual assault incidents to being a commuter campus.

"We don't have residence halls where a lot of sexual assault, date rape and sexual violence incidents happen," said Mike Kiphart, dean of student affairs.

The college also does not have student organizations, such as fraternities, with separate residences, he said.

"That's where a lot of those things occur," Kiphart said. "Some of those factors have helped us keep our incident rate at zero."

While there are residence halls at McDaniel College, administrators credit the relatively low incident rates to a campus-wide commitment to understanding and awareness of sexual violence.

Between 2010 and 2012, five sexual assault incidents were reported at McDaniel.

Comparatively, during the same time frame, 18 incidents were reported at Towson University in Towson, 18 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Catonsville, five at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, one at Hood College in Frederick and one at Stevenson University's two campuses in Baltimore County, according to the Clery report.

Prevention and awareness on campus

Before stepping foot on campus, all McDaniel students are expected to complete AlcoholEdu, an online alcohol educational lesson used by colleges and universities through an alcohol prevention initiative.

AlcoholEdu has a section that specifically addresses sexual assault awareness, said Liz Towle, McDaniel's associate dean for student affairs. Alcohol is often a key factor in sexual violence incidents, Towle said.

According to Mike Webster, McDaniel campus safety director — who was a member of the rule-making committee charged with establishing changes to Clery for the federal Department of Education — more than 90 percent of all sexual offenses involve excessive alcohol use by the victim, assailant or both.

If students do not complete the AlcoholEdu, they receive a hold on their account and cannot register for or drop classes or receive their grades, said Cheryl Knauer, McDaniel spokesperson.

During parent orientation, McDaniel administrators and staff also talk candidly about sexual assault awareness and prevention, so they can understand the topics and figure out how to have a conversation with their child before they leave for college, said Beth Gerl, vice president of student affairs.

Several times a semester, on-campus events, seminars and programs are held by various student organizations to help students understand the dynamics of sexual violence, prevention and even what to do as a bystander, Towle said.

"We have gone to the forefront to ensure families, prospective students and the campus population is more engaged in the reality of the issue, feel comfortable intervening and there is an awareness surrounding sexual assaults," Gerl said.

In 2012, McDaniel's Sexual Assault Prevention Committee — which included representatives from campus safety, the wellness center, student affairs and other departments — was founded. The committee works with the local rape crisis center to host numerous programs on campus, specifically during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

At Carroll Community College, the student life group hosts activities and information sessions, as well as health marts throughout the year that discuss sexual assault and sexual violence, said Kiphart.

Awareness is also integrated into the curriculum at Carroll Community College through the general education health course, required of all students, and in several criminal justice courses, he said.

Policies and procedures

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Both McDaniel College and Carroll Community College have an outlined policy for dealing with sexual assault on campus.

The definition of sexual assault, policies for good student conduct and judicial process for handling a sexual assault are all included in the student handbooks at both colleges.

If a student reports a sexual assault incident, campus safety is alerted to provide the victim, either a student or faculty/staff member, with medical and judicial options.

Students at McDaniel can report sexual assault incidents to residence life staff, on-campus faculty, the Campus Safety Department, law enforcement agencies or Carroll Hospital Center.

Carroll Community College students can report to all of those agencies as well, aside from residence life, as there are no dorms.

While Carroll Community College's campus is not open all night, the blue glowing emergency lights are connected to the county's emergency services system after hours, said Wayne Livesay, the college's chief of public safety and security.

Both colleges have connections with Carroll Hospital Center to receive an optional sexual assault forensic examiner, or SAFE, exam, which collects forensic evidence from sexual assault victims.

McDaniel and Carroll Community College have policies in place that allow them to continue with a judicial proceeding, independent from a separate investigation and proceeding by local law enforcement agencies. Both the accuser and the accused in an alleged sexual assault have various rights in such proceedings, which are explained in the student handbook.

Implementation

McDaniel's Webster worked as an alternate negotiator for the U.S. Department of Education during rule making for amendments to the Clery Act.

Under the amendments, Webster said he expects to see an increase in the number of reports of sexual violence on college campuses.

"Colleges will develop robust, highly effective victim support systems and students will have a lot of faith in that system and will be more likely to report under that system," Webster said.

But, according to Webster, an increase in reporting does not mean an increase in incidents.

"You run the risk of creating substantial misconstrued perception of what the data means," he said.

Over the next six months to a year, Carroll Community College will be working to make sure students understand the new procedures and to comply with the new standards.

"It's very fluid in terms of what has to be reported and when," Kiphart said.

McDaniel College has implemented the majority of programming and training changes required by the Clery Act, according to Gerl, and will continue to make any necessary changes as needed.

Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or krishana.davis@carrollcountytimes.com.

Local hospital provides SAFE exams

Carroll Hospital Center is one of 23 hospitals across Maryland with the sexual assault forensic examiner program.

The SAFE program is a nationwide program providing examinations for sexual assault and sexual violence victims, said Tracy Yingling, forensic nurse program coordinator at Carroll Hospital Center.

In 1999, the hospital began its SAFE program collecting evidence from sexual assault victims aged 13 and older. By 2001, it added a pediatric program performing exams on children 12 and younger.

The SAFE program at the hospital is an eight-member team of nurses, who are available around the clock to provide services to victims of sexual assault, Yingling said. There is always an on-call staff member who can get to the hospital within an hour to administer an exam, she said.

When a sexual assault victim comes into the hospital, they are given three options:

• Have a minor examination to check for bruising and infections, medication to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and no law enforcement intervention;

• Have a SAFE exam, medication and no law enforcement intervention; or

• Have a SAFE exam, medication and law enforcement intervention.

"A SAFE nurse is available on-call 24-seven to speak with [a victim] on the phone to clarify those options," Yingling said. "When you are already traumatized and you don't know there are choices you need to make, it can get very confusing."

If the victim decides to move forward with the SAFE exam they are given a head-to-toe physical exam looking for trauma, scrapes and bruising, and a detailed genital exam looking for trauma, Yingling said.

SAFE exams also include evidence collection, which can be used in prosecution, should the victim choose to involve law enforcement.

The SAFE program at Carroll Hospital Center is a "multidisciplinary program," Yingling said. Every Friday, Carroll Hospital Center SAFE staff meet with local agencies, such as law enforcement, the Health Department, and family and children services to discuss new and ongoing cases. The agencies collaborate to help bring justice to victims of sexual assault, she said.

Carroll Hospital Center is one of the few hospitals in the state that also provides exams for potential suspects at the request of the state's attorney's office and law enforcement office, Yingling said.

According to Amy Ocampo, Carroll County senior assistant state's attorney, investigators will apply for a search warrant of a person if there is probable cause to compare samples provided by the suspect with samples provided by the victim in the SAFE exam or from the crime scene. If the warrant is approved, the suspect is seized and transported to Carroll Hospital Center for a suspect rape kit, Ocampo said.

But often, DNA swabs are also taken to exonerate a suspect.

"Investigators could be interviewing a suspect and they will say they didn't do it," Ocampo said. "The investigator will ask if they mind having their DNA swabbed, and those swabs will be sent to the crime lab."

Crime lab investigators would request the SAFE exam kit to compare the evidence, she said.

"There's a great need for young men and women to report," Yingling said. "I see that as an issue not just in our county, but nationwide. There's gross under-reporting because victims don't understand the process or what to expect."

The SAFE program staff at Carroll Hospital Center is open to working with law enforcement, campus safety and health services to help inform residents about their services, she said.

—Krishana Davis

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