Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NPR tackles super important topic: Sexual assault on college campuses

If the first segment is any indication of the rest, this NPR series is a must-read or must-listen. Why is this super important? Because "the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted," and as a whole, colleges and universities aren't doing much about it.

The first part of the series is "Campus Rape Victims: A Struggle For Justice." You can read and/or listen to it here. The rest of the series:
Part 2: All Things Considered, Feb. 25: "Failed Justice Leaves Rape Victim Nowhere To Turn"
Part 3: All Things Considered, Feb. 26
Part 4: Morning Edition, March 2

One thing in the first story that bothers me is a quote from Kevin Helmkamp, associate dean of students at the University of Wisconsin. He's talking about sexual assault cases on campus, and he said "They clearly are very, very difficult cases to investigate. Usually, there is not a lot of corroborating evidence for one side or the other. It does tend to come down to one person saying this happened and the other person saying, no it didn't happen that way." OK, makes sense, and I think that's pretty much exactly how it goes 9 times out of 10.

But then he says: The result, "I can assure you, is that someone is going to be unhappy" with the outcome of a decision.

People who would be unhappy:
1. Someone who was assaulted and the assailant was found not guilty or wasn't punished.
2. Someone who was falsely accused who was found guilty.
3. I'm going to assume that if someone was assaulted and the assailant was found guilty, the assaulted would be "happy" with that. Leaving, in this scenario, the guilty assailant to be unhappy. Hey, I think I know a way to avoid that: DON'T SEXUALLY ASSAULT PEOPLE. Then you won't be "unhappy" when you get caught! How about that.

Anyway, because this information is so important, I'm reprinting it from the article. Please pass it along to anyone who might need it, now or in the future:
Rights Of Sexual Assault Victims

What's now called the Clery Act, enacted in November 1990, requires that higher education institutions publicly disclose all crime that happens on campus. The idea was that students and their parents should be informed — and that public scrutiny would force colleges to get serious about preventing crime.

A 1992 amendment to the Clery Act added a victims' bill of rights, which requires schools to provide certain basic rights to survivors of sexual assaults on campus, including:
  • Giving the alleged victim and the alleged assailant equal opportunity to have others present in disciplinary proceedings.
  • Notifying alleged victims of their right to pursue justice through local police, and of the availability of counseling services.
  • Notifying alleged victims that they have the option of changing classes and dormitory assignments in order to avoid their alleged assailants.
If a university fails to appropriately handle a reported case of sexual assault, alleged victims can report this to the U.S. Department of Education. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — a civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination — sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are also considered discrimination on the basis of sex.

If a college or university is aware of but ignores sexual harassment or assault, it may be held liable under the law.

Visit the Web site of Center for Public Integrity to learn more about the law and resources for victims.

— From NPR research and reporting by the Center for Public Integrity

UPDATE, from Part 2:
There's an excellent point made in the second article that every woman should know. Margaux, a rape survivor, says: "when you're a girl and you're obviously drunk, you're putting a target on your back for a predator. So, yeah, it makes a huge difference. But what happened to me is still assault. I mean you can't. There's a reason why it's in the law: A drunk person can't consent."

The story goes on to say:
"Every state in the country has sexual assault laws that say when a woman is drunk to the point of passing out, she can't give consent."
Another thing to keep in mind: "Only 5 percent of women report sexual assaults on campus, according to research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice."

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