The ever growing epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. What are we doing wrong?
Dear Future President,
As a high school student dreaming of the pearly university gates and the power they posse is growing excessively vivid,because my days grow closer to the time when I graduate and come face to face with the threshold of college life. Within my research, you are bound to find various how to’s on college application perfecting and background information for the University of Washington Seattle, my dream school. However, the surfacing facts about how colleges choose to deal with prohibited actions, behavior, and laws on campus grounds is clouding over my once vivid dreams of Seattle. Passing those gates is causing not only myself, but others to be hesitant. In light of current events, the treatment of sexual assault victims and their cases are increasing in severity. Mishandled and pushed aside, victims are questioning why their cases are any less important to college boards as the so called ‘severity’ of students cheating on an insignificant math test. The numbers of the same stories are multiplying in the hundreds, and there seems to be no end to their pathological suffering. I, along with the true victims imprisoned in college campuses, are creating questions and answers, and drawing conclusions to why this all is happening. I choose to focus in depth with the reason why college boards are neglectful, how these colleges are handling cases, the victims troubles and stories. But I also examine the other side of this century long debate on sexual assault case treatment. With a topic as sensitive as this, most others wouldn’t dare to touch it. I feel that the victims are being stripped of their voices, so I must become a voice, though tiny in significance, to the ones who can no longer speak for themselves. I write to you to shine light on a dark epidemic, happening behind the closed gates of universities.
In a recent film, titled ‘The Hunting Ground’, a group of students from various colleges showcase their findings, stories, and their fight for justice for their assault cases. In most stories, the women and men are all sharing the same thing. They were sexually assaulted, and college boards, when the students went to report, casually turned them down, or turned blame back on the victim. What are colleges trying to hide by brushing off serious cases like these, one may ask. The truth to the answer is hidden behind a valuable reputation, the need for federal funding, and the fear of being sued. Colleges are aided funding by the federal government, your employees. If a scandal like ones as these were to leak out, a Title Ⅳ violation would be in place. Title Ⅳ is a federal law that states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (US Department of Education). This means that if a college were to be in trouble with Title Ⅳ, their funding would be terminated. So, the colleges see the reputation as needing to be kept seemingly spotless, so their money isn’t ripped from the universities wallet. They see the reputation as a home, and the outside is the part that will be frequently seen, so they fix it up, paint it and make it nice and new, so it’s a haven for federal grants. But behind a steal locked door, the inside of this house is disorganized, a mash of colors, and it’s walls are crumbling. If the students, parents, and the federal government were to look inside of the home, they wouldn’t wish to place any time or effort into the establishment. Another reasons colleges push aside cases is the fear of being taken to court by angry students who feel they’ve been ‘wrongly accused’ of the assaults. On average, According to the State Higher Education Executive Officers, four-year state schools and community colleges took in $61.8 billion worth of tuition dollars in 2013 (The SHEEO). If one college were to earn a reputation of being a sexual assault prone university, their billions of dollars would be lost. To college, they see innocent victims as dirty finger prints they don’t want on their windows. However, if a college is so invested on keeping reputations clean, why would pushing aside serious cases be the best solution? Our colleges need to be educated on the best way to handle these types of cases and problems, as their current solutions are damaging a reputation just as much as it is helping it. A top priority for colleges should be protecting the students in the facility, not the money they store in their banks.
Women and men alike are becoming victim to sexual assault, but the epidemic is becoming more of a serious problem than it needs to be. The word of colleges dismembering the cases piece by piece is seeping out into the world, and the victims are becoming fearful of what might happen. 88%, according to a study conducted by Fisher, Cullen, Turner in 2008, of sexually assaulted victims (women) in college do not report. While colleges are attempting to turn up good reports and punishments, their numbers are smaller than the reality. The amount of punishments, however, are smaller, than the amount of reported cases filed. A study (statistics from The Hunting Ground) saw that,From 2008 until 2013,
- Harvard had 135 reports and 10 suspensions
- From 2008 until 2013, Dartmouth had 155 reports and 3 expulsions
- From 1996 until 2013, Stanford has 259 reports and 1 expulsion
- From 2009 to 2013, U of Virginia had 139 reports and 0 expulsions, but 185 expulsions from cheating and other honor board violations (The Hunting Ground, documentary)
In Harvard, the punishments are suspensions, a week or two of of school or classes to take some time and realize ‘what you’ve done’. In Stanford, the number of reports taken in for account are higher, but in the 20 year gap, only 1 person was expelled. The most surprising and revolting of the bunch is within the University of Virginia. With the number of reports they had, (according to college number releases) there were no actions taken towards them, but their number of expulsions due to honor board violations exceed the number of reports they seemed to have. Some may conclude that the people reporting aren’t correctly doing so, because now their cases aren’t handled as well as they could be. But the numbers are large, in reports showcased to a university, that victims are giving their reports to the college boards. Yet, 88% of women do not report.The numbers released by most colleges are false, and this needs to be changed. Stated before, my dream school is the University of Washington. During my research, I came across a section of their website dedicated to student safety. This link provided me with annual statistics on crime reported on their campuses. Upon further reading of these crime stats, I came across the percentages of sexual assault reports the college received per year. In 2015, 12% of the crime on campus was sexual assault, and campus owned apartments and residential areas caused for 7% of the reports filed (UW Website). Colleges need to release yearly reports of sexual assault cases, so we no longer live in ignorance of what really is happening behind closed college doors. I don’t wish to enter a college that refuses to tell the truth about the causes, effects, and numbers of assaults. Even when released on university websites, the numbers presented are untrue, because the assaulted are being scared away from boards to file cases and reports. The epidemic is growing larger because as the numbers of reports per college grow, the amount of punishment towards the suspects are not growing with it, rather, they are sinking.
The arguments of false claims and gender biased accusations do indeed come into play within the issues explained in this letter. The amount of cases that are proven to be false range from 2%-8% (False Allegations of Sexual Assault, Various Authors). However, that is 92-98% of cases that are true. Someone may look at the number and fact that some victims are lying, and stretch the truth. In some areas of concern for opposers, the fact of a senior thesis project being permitted on campus is outraging some supporters of colleges and ‘wrongly accused’ rapers. A student dedicated her senior thesis to voicing sexual harassment, by carrying around a mattress all over campus, symbolizing that she now must ‘carry the weight’ of the night she was raped with her for the rest of her life. Some view this is Columbia University ‘permitting a campaign of gender-based harassment that has deprived him (her raper) of educational opportunities’ (A lawsuit filed by Paul Nungesser). Though indeed a bad bet of tarnishing one's educational and social reputation, the simple fact that he can no longer go do certain educational aspects in his life that he was once able to do, will never amount to the pain his victim now must carry with her the rest of her life. He didn't account the fact that she now has a harshly stained dignity and privacy. Another might say that women are only represented in the sexual epidemic, and that men are insignificant to the numbers, a sexist act in the making. To this I mention, that 1 in every 10 cases of sexual assault and harassment are men. Also, some argue that the women proposing the problem are pointing their fingers to all men, making them out as a terrible and horrible gender in whole. This fact must be put to shame, because in fact, only 8% of men in colleges are responsible for 90% of rape and harassment (David Lisak Ph.D and Paul M. Miller 2002). Most blame, correctly, is being put on the abusers. Some suggest, however, half of the blame should be placed on the women or men in question. A person can say that someone could have been dressed provocatively and consumed too much to make them intoxicated, so the reason it may have happened could have had to do with the bad decisions on the other person's end. But there is no excuse to what rapists do. Rape is universal, it doesn’t stop at one gender, race, religious origin. It doesn’t focus it’s dirty thoughts on one person. It’s effect of tarnishing one’s reputation if a claim is false is not ever going to be as tarnishing as the burden one will have to carry with them from the backlash of assault and if it’s action will not be handled correctly.
On January 28th, 2015, two bikers were riding in the morning near Stanford university, when they came across a man sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The men called out to the man, and he began to run away from the scene. The bikers caught up with him and remained keeping him in captivity until the police arrived at the scene. The assaulter was taken to jail, and was accused of five counts of sexual assault. He faced a judge, and was about to face 14 years sitting in a prison cell. However, the judge decided that 14 was ‘too much’ and the man was given 6 months in the county jail. But he never faced the 6 months, as he was released in 3 months on ‘good behavior’. The news of his already reduced sentence being wrongfully reduced once more began a wave of reaction, a national headline that read the name “Brock Turner”. Turner was faced with five counts of assault, and the judge did not grant him what he rightfully deserved to get. The woman he assaulted spoke recently in his hearing, and had these words for Turner.
“I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it. It had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else. Ruin a life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” (Courtesy of the Washington Post).
Her powerful words speak for every man and woman who has had to or will have to face sexual assault. Her powerful words, I hope, will open the eyes of people who sit in the deans chairs of universities, that hear the devastation and no longer want to hear it. I hope, it will open the eyes of you and your employees to no longer want to sit back and watch the school scandals and unjust actions for those who deserve justice, but to begin to see what needs to be changed, so that people like Turner’s victims can have their dignity and privacy back for themselves.
I hope that this letter gave you new information you had never thought of before. I wish to imprint the name Brock Turner and Title Ⅳ into your notes, your hearts, your minds. I hope to give you the statistics and evidence necessary to create valid arguments to begin to put a stop to this epidemic. I advise you, start local. Start with one university at a time. Due to the fact that the problem has grown so large, taking it down fast will not be an option. Reprimanding schools for not getting done what is necessary starts the chain, because then more schools can learn from each other, and words can pass around fast so that colleges begin to take the correct matters into their own hands, effectively working together to get rid of the problem at hand. Annually assessing the information a college gives, and investigating whether or not the numbers are true can ease a person's mind of true or false facts. A student who enters college is at a voting age. Board members should no longer be able to elect the heads of colleges, but allowing the students to choose who runs their school could enhance a student to authority trust. Address the students of colleges that the epidemic does exist. The government, evidently, does not wish to touch the subject. The assault happens, and incoming and existing students, parents, and faculty need to be addressed on the subject, so living in vague ignorance of what truly happens to victims won’t be an option any longer.
I no longer wish to sit in a world idly twiddling my thumbs, while 1 in every 4 women in college will face sexual assault in their college life (Association of American Universities 2015). As a high schooler seeing the real reality of colleges handling serious law issues and reports, the once pearly white university gates are becoming dirtier and dirtier, no longer beckoning me in, but pushing me away. The University of Washington used to call to me, but I no longer respond. Not until I am sure that something can be done to prevent me and others from being robbed of our worth, privacy, and dignity. I hope you see my issue as pressing, and I hope you are able to hear my voice and think of the others who no longer have one.