Campus rape has been an issue for decades, and only recent progress has been made in holding universities accountable for disciplining aggressors and providing appropriate victim services for survivors.
This week, we’re running an editorial series on the issue of underreported rape on college campuses, what UF can do to change students’ attitude toward sexual violence and what students can do to help their peers and aid the cause.
The nation has seen a shocking amount of high-profile university rape scandals this year. According to Time magazine, “by the end of July, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had received 48 complaints regarding Title IX violations related to sexual violence.” The most recent scandal involves Vanderbilt University football player Chris Boyd.
However, it’s not that sexual violence is rising, but as more resources become available to women, more women are coming forward and reporting sexual assault and rape. The often-quoted statistic that about one in four women will be raped while attending college has remained unfortunately constant.
The fact that more schools are being held accountable gives us hope, especially because reports of universities mishandling sexual violence cases are in the news almost every week.
One of the most striking cases of administrative inaction in regard to campus rape is at Amherst College, a supposedly progressive small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. In 2012, Amherst’s student newspaper published a rape survivor’s story of how her case was grossly mishandled by the administration.
A counselor reportedly told the victim that pressing charges would be useless and was advised to “forgive and forget.” The victim ended up transferring out of Amherst, while her rapist graduated with honors.
Of course, it’s no surprise that universities make an effort to cover up scandals, especially ones concerning sexual violence. The cost of one rape victim’s transfer out of the college is far smaller than negative national attention, especially for highly ranked schools. For example, Amherst has consistently held the No. 2 spot in the U.S. News & World Report National Liberal Arts College Rankings, and negative press could affect that rating.
This sends a damaging message to women, especially victims of sexual violence, and contributes to the low reporting rates of rape and assault: About 95 percent of campus rapes go unreported, according to the American Association of University Women. Women shouldn’t have to mitigate the effects of rape — sexually transmitted diseases, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder — on their own, and colleges need to aggressively move forward in preventing campus rape and counseling victims.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about what UF can do — and already has done — to open this conversation.
A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 9/16/2013 under the headline "Local and national rape culture, Part 1: Victims are punished"