Since the 1970’s, the gap between the number of women vs the number of men attending universities has steadily increased, with women outnumbering men in both private, as well as public universities, according to Forbes. With this information, it might be easy to believe that universities across the country would be making efforts to accommodate their majority population by taking action against the ever-rising number of rape and sexual abuse cases, many of which are happening right on campus grounds. You might think that these universities are aiming to cut out the level of violence against women by instilling more hardened punishments for those who commit the crimes. And you might even think that universities would have severe consequences for one of their own students who forcibly rapes one or more of their other students. You might think these things, because it seems like that would be common sense, but according to the so-called intellectuals who are in charge of running these universities, you thought wrong.
According to Vassar, one in four college women are victims of rape or attempted rape. Think about that number. I, myself, spent five years at a university. I met hundreds of other women… in my classes, studying on the green, chatting in the social halls… to think that one of every four of them, statistically speaking, was a victim of rape on the very grounds I met them, that is both shocking and disgusting to me. But to some of the country’s highest ranked universities, its no big thing.
Earlier this year, Forbes ranked the ‘Top 25 Best Public Colleges in 2013.’ Unfortunately, 20% of those top-ranked colleges have been involved in some terribly embarrassing stories of how NOT to handle rape and sexual abuse cases. The three top colleges, according to Forbes, Westpoint, Berkeley, and the US Naval Academy, as well as the University of Carolina, charting the list at number 8, and the University of Colorado, coming in at number 24, are five examples of how colleges that might seem great on paper sometimes keep those academic standards high by sweeping any issues of misconduct under the rug. The University of North Carolina, for example, is accused of forcing their Dean of Students to underreport rape and sexual abuse cases, while also punishing one of their student victims for “intimidating” her rapist by speaking to the press, despite the fact that the victim had never even publicly named her rapist. You can see a quick rundown of the sexual abuse complaints filed against the other four universities here: http://jezebel.com/20-of-the-countrys-best-public-colleges-have-a-majo-910991068
Berkeley isn’t the only California university that is having problems in handling sexual abuse cases. The University of Southern California is proving to be one of the worst, recently being accused of failing to prosecute a rape based on the fact that the rapist didn’t have an orgasm. As if the victim hasn’t lost enough simply by being raped, she now can’t even see her rapist charged because she still owes it to him to at least finish the job. In another case at USC, officials are accused of dismissing a rape claim by saying that not punishing the rapist would be an “educative” process. It doesn’t end there. Officials at USC are also accused of telling a victim who went with a friend to file a report after being raped at a frat party that “women should not go out, get drunk, and expect not to be raped.” And that’s only the tip of the iceberg for poor old USC, who has nearly a dozen other complaints against the way they have handled these cases.
Dartmouth is another university that is accused of siding with rapists and abusers after their quickness to file a complaint against a student protest in the dining hall, rallying against racism, homophobia, and of course, the mishandling of sexual abuse cases. These protests come after numerous students reported cases of varying types of assault, which were all met with no consequences. The victims, however, for their protests, were threatened with possible reprimands and probation.
Possibly the most offensive case of universities mishandling sexual abuse claims comes from Yale, the picture perfect Ivy League College. Yale has been accused of creating a “hostile sexual environment” and consequently has to now report any grievances to the Office of Civil Rights until May of 2014, due to their inability to handle sexual assault cases tactfully on their own. Even still though, since being forced to report, Yale has filed six cases in 2013 of non-consensual sex. Oh… Did I forget to mention that? Right. Non-consensual Sex. Because in the lovely world of Yale University, there is no such thing as rape. No such word even exists on their campus. There is sex, and then there is non-consensual sex. And apparently the way you handle cases of “non-consensual sex” is by still allowing them to graduate, still earning their diploma. Only one of the six students who committed non-consensual sex had any real punishment, and it was only one year of suspension from college. But that student was able to return with their credits in tact the next year and graduate only a few months behind of schedule, still enjoying the benefits of the campus where they raped a fellow student, who most likely still had to walk beside his/her perpetrator one short year later. Seems fair, right?
But its not just the Ivy League colleges who are guilty. Rust College, in Mississippi, among allegations of sexual assault on a student, allowed a professor to simply resign from their university. The professor, then went on to teach at a high school in Memphis, where he raped a 16 year old girl. Rust College then HIRED their old friend back, despite the fact that he had lost his teaching license due to that little rape fiasco. Not surprisingly, the professor went on to rape a student in his office a short time later.
At Amherst College, the situation doesn’t seem to be much better. Apparently there are so many stories of sexual abuse cases, most of which have been dismissed by University officials, that one student has created a project, where postcards are held up by student victims (or by others in place of students who had to drop out of college due to their ordeal), to bring attention to the traumatic stories that have yet to be dealt with by campus officials. You can see more about this project here: http://jezebel.com/5954096/hey-why-are-you-such-a-slut-more-amherst-rape-survivors-speak-out/
While these examples make the idea of going to college seem terrifying, its possible that not every college is quite as quick to side with rapists. I, myself, attended the University of Cincinnati, and while I was mindful of safety precautions and kept very aware of the dangers around me, I rarely felt unsafe on campus ground. As a student, I was updated quickly by email if ever a violent crime had taken place on or near campus, and had access to campus guards who were often available to escort students to their vehicles / dorms. After a very quick search of my old University and rape cases, I came up with no complaints of mishandling on the University’s behalf. And what, to me, seems like the most important part of a rape case, The University of Cincinnati has a list of who to contact and what to expect in the event of a rape, and actually uses the word RAPE, as opposed to some family-friendly term used to lessen the severity of the crime. Here is UC’s Sexual Assault FAQ, which you can find easily as soon as you access their website http://www.uc.edu/ucwc/sexual_violence/faq.html
My advice to anyone who is currently attending college, considering college, or has any children that may someday attend college, is to research the university’s handling of violence and sexual assault cases. We spend so much time worrying about how well our diploma will be received by prospective employers, but so little time becoming familiar with the environment that we will be living in for four years to get it. Educate yourself BEFORE going to college. It could save you a lifetime of heartache.