One in Five

Grace Nelson

23 November 2016

College is a place where you live on your own for the first time, without parents micro managing you and watching everything you do. It is a place for you to grow and find who you are and who you want to be. During this important time in your life you should feel safe and protected by the institution you choose to shape the individual you are to become during your four years. In reality, 1 in 5 women get raped while in college and 1 in 16 men get raped while in college. That is an absurd number, but the worst is how the colleges themselves choose to handle student rape cases when brought to their attention. The way different institutions see fit to handle rape is not as diverse as you might like to think, from the state Universities all the way to the Ivy League schools there really is not a ton of action being taken to protect or help the victim in anyway. Why are we attending and giving our money to a school that might not even be in our corner if something horrific like rape happens to us?

In a TIME magazine article ‘Why Victims of Rape in College Don’t Report to the Police’, light was shed on a round table event put together by Claire McCaskill, a Senator from Missouri. The article challenged the idea of how Universities are seen to be mishandling reported sexual assaults.

Criticism of how college campuses have dealt with sexual assault has risen this year with accusations that officials have been sweeping the problem under the rug. But the tension over universities’ mishandling of these issues begs the question of why college administrators are expected to deal with these cases in the first place. A passive observer might wonder, shouldn’t these serious crimes be dealt with by the police? The answer, it turns out, is that administrators and police will have to work together to address the problem.

The Universities and the police working together you would think would be the best way to go about things in order to get justice for the victim at their school and at the criminal level as well. But the sad truth is colleges veer away from the connection with the police. In some ways colleges do make a good point, as the article points out.

Going to the police can lead to a months-long process that might threaten a victim’s confidentiality. In response, law enforcement officers explained how difficult it can be to pursue criminal action when they don’t collect evidence from the victim early in the process, making it difficult for them to get repeat offenders.

On the other side of things, many colleges also have selfish reasons why they do not want their students going to the police, as explained here by a victim from Yale law school, “When I reported violence to my school, I was told not to go to police. But I never would have told the school if I knew I was going to be forced into that option”. Showing that this student wanted help and justice for what had been done, but Yale did not want a student to go to the police causing the assault to be public record and therefore causing bad publicity for the highly regarded school.

Sexual assault crimes are highly unreported crimes in general; more than 80% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. With this knowledge it is hard not to question why this is. According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, there are four main reasons for this:

1) Victims do not want anyone to know: mostly because they feel guilty and in someway responsible for the assault that accord. Also when going to the authorities you usually have to tell your story in specific detail many times, causing the victim to re-live the assault and further embarrass them.

2) Victims do not understand what constitutes rape: meaning, they do not know what it is and if their assault would fall under ‘rape’. This is because most rapes happen by acquaintances, and people do not often realize it as a crime because they know the person.

3) Victims are afraid the police will not believe them: many victims do not think police will take them seriously or feel like the police will blame them instead. Or like we have seen before schools and other sources keep victims from going to the police.

4) Victims do not know how much control they will have after the report to the police: this is mostly the case of going through a lengthy trial, that might not even result in a conviction. Which is a fair fear to have because stated in the TIMES article, “Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, only 18% of reported rapes result in a conviction”.

With reason number three, victims are afraid the police will not believe them, is another case on how hard it will be for the universities and the police to work together. There would have to be steps taken by the university and the police departments to build that trust with the victims. But with the conviction rates and the stress that victims have to go through, to maybe getting a little justice to no justice at all, seems worthless to the victims.

In the documentary The Hunting Ground, many different cases were brought up, one of which was about a sexual assault case at Harvard law school. A male student sexually assaulted two females who were also students at the time. One girl while she was unconscious and another girl while she was coming to. The one girl woke up just in time for her to stop what was being done to her. She realized her friend on the bed next to her was naked and asked the man how she got that way and he replied with “oh, I did that”. This girl went directly to the Dean of Students about what had occurred, and in the meeting the Dean asked her not to talk about what had happened to anyone so students would not rally to have him removed from campus, but that is exactly what she wanted, for this predator to be removed. Because Harvard was going to do nothing themselves she decided to take it to the board, to have a herring. While talking to the board she was severely questioned ‘why did you not fight him off, are you sure you didn’t give him the wrong idea?’. All these questions that were irrelevant because he had sexually assaulted her. She preceded with the herring anyway, and at the end he was see guilty and was kicked out of school. You might think she got justice, but a year later she receives a note that the man who has sexually assaulted her and her friends would be returning Harvard. The message from this was very clear here, no matter what you do you are not going to win.

This story shows how schools care more about their image and how rape cases will effect them, and care less or not at all about the well being of their students. Harvard’s decision not only affected the two victims, but by letting the male student back on campus, is putting every female at Harvard in harms way. By doing so Harvard shows carelessness in their decision and for their students.

The Hunting Ground also had another story where when a student came in to make a claim that she had been sexually assaulted, a comment back to her way “are you sure he wasn’t having a bad day? Maybe he is going through a hard time right now”. The fact that this human being would make a remake to a girl who is going to them for help because she had just been raped, is making her rapist a victim and telling her he is the one having a hard time is the exact reason so many sexual assaults go unreported and students feel nothing will happen if they do report their crime.

One point that campus administrators bring up to defend their poor actions is, the fact of false reports. When in reality false sexual assault claims are a much smaller estimate then many people believe them to be. According to Wiley Online Library, the false sexual assault claims are 4.5% in 2014, that means more than 95% of sexual assault claims are true. So if this is the case schools do not have a valid point to use this as an excuse to the pitiful actions they are taking to ‘help’ their students.

Though one huge fake claim can set back a major movement. Here is an example of a time rape did get misreported and was taken too far out of hand. In 2012 Rolling Stone magazine wrote a story about a girl named Jackie who was gang rape by multiple guys in a fraternity at the University of Virginia, where Jackie attended. In this story many accusations were made about how the university, and specifically how the Dean of students chose to handle this case. Demonizing the Dean of students and attacking her on how she spoke to Jackie and her lack of empathy and action being taken on Jackie’s assault, ruining her reputation. This story became huge for the movement against rape on college campuses, many protests broke out against the school, many who participated were the University of Virginia’s own students. Later when it came out the whole story was made up and none was factual at all, the damage had been done. The Dean of students had been resigned a new job within the university, the fraternity’s reputation had been shattered, Rolling Stone was looked at for having sloppy journalism, but the worst of all was that the movement was hindered. Because of this one major false report, now when a girl says she was raped on a college campus it might be taken with a grain of salt, instead of acted on immediately.

1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. No more blaming the victim on what they did wrong in the situation or making the accused a victim. No more brushing the accusation under the rug acting like it never happened to save the institution’s image. The way schools choose to handle this needs to change. “No one wants to go to the rape school”, but in this mentality there is nothing but hypocrisy. With the way schools are handling the issue now is causing there to be a more rape, making them ‘the rape school’. So stop worrying about your reputation and your image and focus on listening to your students and empowering them, working with the police, and making your school the school that stands up to fight against sexual assault.

Works Cited

Black, Mike R. “Statistics about sexual violence.” National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Info & Stats For Journalists. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016.

Gray, Eliza. “Why Victims of Rape in College Don’t Report to the Police.” Time June 2014,

time.com/2905637/campus-rape-assault-prosecution/. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016.

Rabin, Roni C. “1 in 5 Women Say They Have Benn Sexually Assaulted.” The New York Times

Dec. 2011, www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-

report-sexual-assault.html. Accessed 21 Nov. 2016.

Spohn, C., White, C. and Tellis, K. “Unfounding Sexual Assault: Examining the Decision

to Unfound and Identifying False Reports” 2014. Law & Soc’y Rev, 48: 161–192.

Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

Wemple, Erik. “The Full Demise of the Rolling Stone Rape Story.” The Washington Post11 Dec.

2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/12/11/the-full-

demise-of-rolling-stones-rape-story/?utm_term=.d4d5ebdef32e. Accessed 23 Nov. 2016.

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