Colleges should do more about rapes on campus

First Posted: 3/26/2015

The most common violent crime on many college campuses today is sexual assault.

The scope of the problem can include everything from stalking to unwanted advances to rape — often at the hands of an acquaintance.

One in five undergraduate women — and 6 percent of undergraduate men — will be a victim of rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

It would seem, given the highest rate of sexual assault is against women ages 16 to 24, that college campuses would be acutely aware of the need for awareness as a prevention and aggressive prosecution as a deterrent.

For too many, it ends at the basics of awareness. There will be the annual rallies, the week of speakers and the posters plastered across campus. That’s not to mock the efforts; but it cannot be the only outreach, because it is not sufficient. It’s important that schools instill a sense of safety and recognize their responsibility to thoroughly support any man or woman who reports a sexual assault.

That’s something that appears to be sadly lacking in the system today.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which mandates institutions of higher education accurately report incidents of sexual assault, is looking into whether as many as 100 schools didn’t bother doing that. This follows a U.S. Senate study that found more than 40 percent of schools surveyed did not report investigating so much as a single sexual assault report.

The defies both the statistics and belief. It also illustrates a few of the significant obstacles that must be overcome.

For one, too many sexual assaults go unreported. Women sometimes fear being made to re-live the event or hearing the ridiculously misogynist cries that they were “asking for it” because of dress, sobriety or even past encounters. Others worry about getting an acquaintance in trouble — since an estimated 90 percent of sexual assaults involve a person known to the victim — or blame themselves.

Another concern is that there are still colleges that inadequately handle the crime: leaving the investigation to campus security, failing to report the matter to outside authorities or treating punishment as an academic matter instead of something for the court system.

There are still too many people and institutions that believe some sort of resolution comes from turning a blind eye to the problem.

Ignoring the reality of sexual assault doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

And it won’t make it go away.

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