Sexual Assaults on Campus: What’s the Solution?

I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have been wrong about campus rapes. Not wrong that they are happening. Because they most certainly are. But wrong in the plaudits I gave to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for tackling this issue and giving it the attention it deserves. I now think that putting the burden on campuses to hold investigations, which are not mirrored after our courts and do not help the accused or the accuser, is simply wrong. Not only do those in charge of these proceedings not have the requisite training necessary to handle such a sensitive issue, but the school generally has an incentive to “brush it under the rug.”

And you can’t turn to the police because they are sometimes even worse with their handling of a rape and there’s also the issue of how many precincts have a rape kit backlog. Where do you turn to? Seriously. What is the solution here? These aren’t rhetorical questions; I genuinely have no fucking idea.

There’s a provision in Title IX passed in the 1970s, which requires campuses to independently investigate claims of rape. Much like in this story well-worth reading from the New York Times, “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t,” Anna thought it would be better to go to the campus than to the police. Also because one school administrator told her the police route would be a “long, drawn-out process.” As you can tell by the title, she now views that as a mistake.

If you follow the line of questioning those on the panel deciding whether someone was raped or not, it’s all about the victim and victim-blaming. Was she dancing a certain way? How much did she drink? And so on. From Cathy Reisenwitz at Reason magazine:

The thinking behind leaving investigating rape to schools never made any sense. If someone rapes someone, most people think they should be in jail. Why should it be different when a student rapes another student? We could get upset that most students found guilty of raping other students aren’t expelled. But what good does it do to send a rapist home, as if without a campus they couldn’t find someone to rape?

As Cathy says, the answer to ill-equipped, uninterested, abusive police departments isn’t to move the cases to ill-equipped, unmotivated, perversely incentivized school administrators. It’s to force cops to do their jobs. Maybe that is the solution I’m interested in. And it would seem, is much better than relying on campuses to handle the issue the way it should be handled. One of the ways it can be done is to eliminate rape-kit backlogs, which some precincts have been able to do relatively cost-efficiently and in a short amount of time. It can be done. But that’s only one facet of the problem, of course.

Going back to the White House involvement, new rules actually make it even worse by suggesting a single administrator must act as judge, jury and executioner in these cases, which, I hope, many can see the absurdity involved in that. We should be concerned with the accused and the accuser receiving proper due process and that doesn’t seem likely under current guidelines and policies.

Results from a survey conducted by Senator Claire McCaskill are pretty damning:

“Other results revealed a lack of professionalism inherent in the process of handling sex crimes at many of the institutions. Even though most schools, 73%, had no protocol for how to work with the local police, many schools nonetheless had not adequately trained personnel on how to deal with these serious crimes internally. Twenty-one percent of the schools provided no training on sexual-assault response for members of faculty and staff, and 31% provided no training to students. A third of schools failed to provide basic training to the people adjudicating claims, 43% of the nation’s “largest public schools” let students help adjudicate cases, and 22% of institutions gave athletic departments oversight of cases involving athletes — a stat McCaskill called “borderline outrageous.”

So, to clarify and parse this data: There is little, if no training for those deciding these cases, many allow students to adjudicate these cases, which I found particularly abhorrent and that athletic departments have any kind of oversight when the issue involves athletes is particularly afoul. They have an incentive to not see their star athletes kick out of the school and charged with sexual assault.

Alas…as McCaskill says, perpetrators have minimized fear of consequences since these issues aren’t adequately addressed. But McCaskill seems to miss the point that Title IX isn’t helping to that endeavor of stronger accountability and due process.

5 thoughts

  1. Reblogged this on A Crazy Random Jumble of Blog and commented:
    One of the most disgusting issues of our time. I listened to some of the congressional hearing from this past Wednesday, and I can safely say that our dear legislators will beat their chests and pound their fists and hoot and holler … and in the end, nothing will be done to change either the college policies that allow for sexual assault to go virtually unchecked or the culture that treats it as permissible. I hope I’m wrong, though. I hope Congress takes real and effective action against this blight on our society.


      1. Agreed. I don’t even understand WHY our society seems to have so much resistance to handling these situations the way they deserve: as one of the (if not the single) most intense violations of an individual’s right conceivable. The fact that colleges have the ability AND such willingness to basically sweep it under the rug is unfathomable.

        What’s worse is, this has been an issue that has been, or at least should have been, in the public consciousness (thanks to shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) for years! Why is it only now that our lethargic legislature is making their typical worthless dog-and-pony show of it?

        Again, I hope I’m wrong and I hope the government does what it SHOULD be doing in these types of situations. But I’m not expecting it to happen.


  2. Governmental bodies tend to have a slower reaction time to events happening on the ground and then when they do take action, they make it seem like they are the knights in shining armor coming to the rescue.


    1. If the goal is to make themselves look like “knights in shining armor,” they’re waaaaay off the mark. Instead, they look like a bunch of doddering old fools who ineffectually raise a ruckus about things they should have handled a decade or more ago and in the end they accomplish nothing. Thereby making themselves look even more out of touch and incompetent. Such is our system, I guess.


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