Federal Data on Sexual Violence at Williams and Its Context

The Jeanne Clery Act is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to make public certain information about crime on and around their campuses. The data for the most recent reporting year can be found here.

It is important, though, to understand that at this point these numbers do not match incidence numbers. This is because (both at Williams and nationally) most people who experience sexual violence never make a formal report of it.

It is not unusual, when campuses begin concerted work on sexual violence, to see report numbers begin to rise, sometimes dramatically and over multiple years. This represents increases in the willingness of students who have been harmed to access support and accountability resources. We are working urgently to ensure that our resources work well for students who have experienced sexual assault.

The Clery Act uses very specific definitions for purposes of counting crimes. The definitions are based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting guidelines, which periodically change. (For example, until 2013, the federal definition of rape only applied to female victims.)

What does this data tell us?

Clery reports provide a somewhat broader view of incidents of sexual violence than looking exclusively at the numbers of cases that make their way through the disciplinary process. For example, a student may disclose an assault, receive supportive services, and elect not to use the campus disciplinary process.

What can’t this data tell us?

Some of the definitions for Clery do not encompass all of the Code of Conduct. For example, violations that fall under the College’s definition of sexual exploitation are not included here.

Clery data is also highly geography-based. So, for example, the assault of a Williams student that occurred on a study-away trip, or at another college, or in some areas off-campus, would not be counted here unless it met specific federal criteria of relationship to the college.

Clery data is derived from reports to Campus Security Authorities, broadly defined as employees of the college who have responsibilities relative to the safety and security of campus (which is most administrative and student affairs staff). Many students who experience sexual violence on campus never specifically disclose their experiences to a staff member. To capture that information, we look to anonymous student survey data.

More generally, the question, How often does sexual violence happen at Williams? is both simple and complex to answer. The simple answer is, “far too often.”

The more complex answer requires us to use many different sources of information to get a full picture of how and how often sexual violence happens here.

But clearly the incidence of sexual violence at Williams, and on all campuses, is too high. Indeed, there is no acceptable number above 0.

Sarah Bolton, Dean of the College
Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life