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The Steubenville Rape Case is Closed, But What About Sexual Assault in College?

  • In 2012 a rape survivor at Amherst College spoke up about the administration’s mishandling of allegations on campus. “When I came forward to my dean [about the sexual assault], I was basically urged to take the year off and go home and take a job at Starbucks … and to come back when the [perpetrator] was no longer here,” said Dana Bolger to the Huffington Post. That same year, Amherst student Angie Epifano shared her account of sexual assault on campus and the resulting fall out in the school’s newspaper, “I am sickened by the administration’s attempts to cover up survivors’ stories, cook their books to discount rapes, pretend that withdrawals never occur, quell attempts at change, and sweep sexual assaults under a rug.” Most tragically, Trey Malone committed suicide because he was unable to cope with the sexual assault he suffered at Amherst. A passage from his suicide note reads:

What began as an earnest effort to help on the part of Amherst, became an emotionless hand washing. In those places I should’ve received help, I saw none. I suppose there are many possible reasons for this. But in the end, I’m still here and so too is that night. I hold no ill will nor do I place an iota of blame upon my family. I blame a society that remains unwilling to address sexual assault and rape. One that pays some object form of lip service to the idea of sexual crimes while working its hardest to marginalize its victims. One where the first question a college president can pose to me, regarding my own assault is, “Have you handled your drinking problem?”

  • In 2012, Olivia Hansen asserted that Rice University, nationally ranked for having the “happiest students”, maintained its status by shoving unhappy students out the door. Her travails with the university administration after reporting her sexual assault read as a cautionary tale to anyone who dares speak up.
  • Earlier this year, in the case of a leaked sex tape secretly recorded without the victim’s knowledge or permission, Oklahoma State University police released the name and personal information of the victim but kept the information of the suspect and witnesses confidential. Apparently this is not an isolated case of questionable administration of sex crimes by OSU. According to reports, it took nearly a month for university officials to inform police that a single student was accused of several assaults and seven students found guilty of sexual misconduct dating back to 2010 yet none had been expelled.
  • Just a few weeks ago, Occidental College students protested the school’s decision not to use the campus alert system to inform the student body that a rape had occurred on campus when such notification could be key to protecting other students from harm and/or capturing the suspect.
  • Harvard College’s student paper, The Harvard Crimson, recently published a lengthy look at sexual assault at the school. Female students shared their concerns anonymously (for fear of retaliation). One student called Paola “expresses deep disappointment with the way that administrators respond to students coming forward with experiences of sexual assault. ‘They question the event so much and ask if you were in the wrong so many times that, after a while, one begins questioning if it even happened.’”

What’s worse is that I could go on.

A 2011 National Institute of Justice report revealed that between 20-25% of women, and approximately 6.1% of men are victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault while they are in college. Having been victimized in this way, it’s imperative that college administrations get out of the way of justice and cease re-victimizing these young people in ways that could impact their entire lives. Colleges need to stop adjudicating these crimes altogether. They lack the authority to do much of anything other than expel and they’ve proven lackadaisical in reporting incidents to police which would tarnish their reputations and negatively impact enrollment. I say protect the students – female and male – and remove the self-interested universities from the equation. And they say the War on Women doesn’t exist?

Last 5 posts by Nakia D. Hansen