In higher education an astonishing one of every four women will be raped or sexually assaulted during their college career, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). While the number seems high, the sickening reality is that the number is very likely much higher. Tens of thousands of sexual assault incidents at American colleges and universities go unreported. Only 5 percent of assaults are reported to the authorities, according to the NSVRC.
Men and women are reluctant to report assaults because the process can feel long, arduous and futile. Victims of assault face a wall between them and justice.
Nearly 42 percent of victims said they did not report because they were afraid of others knowing, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. While it may seem like a superficial reason not to report a crime, the reality is that victims often lose friends or become outcasts.Victims are often told by their friends not to report cases or they will be known as “that” girl among peers.
Victims are often uninformed and 35 percent said they did not know what qualified as rape. What most fail to realize is that rape does not have to be violent or done by someone the victim is unfamiliar with. Most rape victims know their assailants, which can be a boyfriend or friend.
Victims may lack the confidence that police will believe them, especially if the case involves alcohol or a known attacker. Victims too often have their credibility attacked, their sexual history probed and judgment questioned. “He said-she said” scenarios await many victims. If the victim feels she will not be taken seriously, she may feel there is no point in reporting her case.
These fears are not far fetched. Out of every 100 reports, only three people will be convicted.
Where students go to report assault is also unclear. Some campuses handle rape and sexual assault internally, while others refer it to outside authorities. Rape and sexual assault are felony cases and should be treated as such. Overmatched administrators and under-trained campus security too often botch sexual assault cases and re-victimize the victims.
College campuses need to take responsibility to educate their students about sexual assault. Jeffrey Bucholz’s brilliant “Men Against Rape” seminars are a good start. Education needs to be clear and preventative.
Consequences for assailants must be more than just a slap on the wrist for attackers. Southwestern College has slapped a lot of wrists and let a lot of dangerous students back on campus. Victims suffer more punishment by a grueling process and have to endure empty-eyed school employees, lazy campus police and negligent administrators.
Studies show that when a college provides more education on sexual assault, the number of reports increases. Students and parents should encourage education and encourage students to report attacks.
Rolling Stone magazine’s faulty article about rape at the University of Virginia is a setback. Now rapists and sexual predators feel safer. Sexual assault victims will have to jump higher hurdles. Some people will be slow to believe them and victims will be more hesitant to report crimes.
On the other hand, while the UVA story was retracted, it forced UVA and other universities with legitimate problems to face them. SDSU and UCSD have investigated and suspended their fraternities.
No one deserves to be raped, especially in the place they chose as their college. SWC has been asleep at the wheel for way too long and has a very sorry record of minimalizing and ignoring legitimate reports of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and bullying of women. This institution needs to straighten up and join the 21st century. Sexual assault on college campuses needs to end now.