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Staff Editorial: Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Submitted by Liz Fox on November 25, 2013 – 4:12 pmNo Comment

As a culture pumped full of knowledge from every possible resource, we have some extent of awareness about sexual assault. Not only do most of us know how sexual assault is defined, but many have a great deal of intuition when it comes to handling matters of rape – including the investigation surrounding the crime – as delicately and privately as possible.

However, it is obvious several places of higher education – notably the University of Connecticut, Occidental College and the University of Southern California – did not get the memo.

According to national statistics provided by the organization OneinFour, a study of 5,000 women conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control revealed that 20 percent admitted to having engaged in sexual acts against their will. Three percent of men in a similar study also disclosed such details. With sexual assault being among the most serious (and popular) offenses on college campuses, investigations of such misconduct must be taken seriously.

But many institutions have become accustomed to giving offenders a slap on the wrist once examinations are underway. The most recent and notorious for misguided methods is the University of Connecticut, home to an area known as the “rape trail” as well as a number of sexual assaults. Four students in particular, who were assaulted at different times over the last few years, have gone public with their mistreatment, claiming the university lacked helpful resources, failed to inform them when their respective attackers were back on campus and that police did not believe them when reports were being taken.

A similar lack of action has been reported by students at USC, who failed to report more than 13 assaults to the Department of Education between 2010 and 2011. Occidental College documents were also missing 24 assault reports. The institution has a smaller student body but boasts more sexual assaults than its larger university rival. This lax behavior, which has mostly led to administrators turning their backs on the victims in favor of patting staff on the back, is all too common on college campuses and makes for one startling public relations move.

At UALR, the rates are much lower. According to statistics provided by the Department of Public Safety, three sexual assaults were reported between 2010 and 2012 (as opposed to the 28 robberies committed during those years). But despite low statistics, the campus has managed to provide a number of accessible resources that serve to console victims as well as report sex-related crimes. The fact that these are made readily available by higher-ed administrators indicates that UALR may handle a rape case far better than schools in other areas – a feat for survivors as well as the institution itself.

But for other schools where “date rape” and “party rape” are more common, it is time to adopt proactive behavior. Instead of brushing investigations under the rug and reacting coldly in a disturbingly diplomatic fashion, pursue due process and emotional compensation for those affected, and most importantly, do not treat the victim like a victim; treat them as survivors who deserve justice.

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