What do universities do with sexual assault charges?
Posted December 17, 2010on:
The treatment of sexual assault by universities makes me sick. In 2006, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) refused to tell the family of a young woman who was raped and murdered by another student what actually happened to her. They lead the family to believe that their daughter died of natural causes until they had finished their investigation 10 week later. And now Notre Dame refuses to prosecute one of their football players who was accused of sexually assaulting a student at their sister school, St. Mary’s College, who later killed herself because her charges weren’t taken seriously. And I’ve heard numerous stories when the University finds the accused student responsible, the sanctions are weak and do nothing to prevent future assaults. I can’t remember the last time that I heard about a university handling a sexual assault case well.
Sexual assault falls under Title IX requirements of universities to prevent sex discrimination. Universities are supposed to make “effective” efforts when a sexual assault report is made. But, this often doesn’t happen.
It often seems like universities are more concerned about the needs of the accused than taking sexual assault charges seriously. Universities don’t want to deny the accused student their right to an education. But if they are a rapist, they have no place on campus.
Unfortunately, universities do not see it that way. Rape culture and rape myths are deeply ingrained into university procedures. Because underage drinking happens a lot on college campuses, if a woman has been drinking they are not seen as the “perfect” victim and universities do not want to punish the accused student unless they committed sexual assault against the “perfect” victim where there is no doubt that the student KNEW that they were committing sexual assault. But rapists are so manipulative of the system that they can often convince a court/university that they had no idea that the woman was not consensual even if they did. And usually they did. It’s pretty easy to tell if someone isn’t consensual.
Because young women know that their colleges do not take sexual assault charges seriously, less women are likely to report their assault or seek help from campus organizations. While reporting is definitely not a necessary step in recovery, some women who would have reported the assault are discouraged by the practices that they see on campus. And because some students do not understand that seeking help from awareness and prevention organizations on campus does not require an official report, they are hesitant to even seek help.
If you are a college student, I encourage you to look at your college’s sexual assault policy to see how your college handles sexual assault charges. Also, take a look at SAFER’s Campus Accountability Project and Winter Break Challenge. Challenge your college’s officials to take charges of sexual assault seriously.