My College Says Sexual Assault Doesn’t Exist, but it Does
In 2014, ninety-one percent of schools reported zero instances of rape on their campuses. Let me repeat: ninety-one percent of schools stated that they had zero rapes occur on or near campus in the year 2014. That’s an overwhelming majority of schools. Yet national averages indicate a much bleaker reality: that one in five undergraduate women will be sexually assaulted during their time on a college campus. How do we explain the large disparity between rates of gender violence and official school statistics reflecting rates of gender-based crimes, which colleges and universities receiving federal funds are required to publish under the Clery Act? Universities across the nation must be discouraging victims from reporting or publishing falsely low rates of violence. Either way, they are failing survivors, rewarding perpetrators, and turning a blind eye to the issue of sexual assault.
There are several ways you can hold your university accountable to prevent and properly report instances of sexual assault. Here are five questions to get you started:
1. How many gender-based offenses does your school report in its Clery Act disclosures?
If your school reported zero instances of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, or domestic violence, you should be skeptical. Ask survivors: do they feel comfortable reporting to the school? Why or why not?
2. Who is your school’s Title IX Coordinator?
All universities under law are required to have a Title IX Coordinator that is responsible for protecting students from discrimination or sexual assault.
3. Does your university have a clear procedure for students to report gender violence?
Schools are required to publish grievance procedures for students wishing to file a sexual assault claim. These procedures must be easily accessible to all students.
4. What sort of training programs does your university offer students and faculty to prevent gender violence?
Schools are required to provide information about culturally relevant and inclusive prevention programs on an ongoing basis.
5. Does your school provide resources for students who have survived gender violence?
Colleges should provide information to students informing them of their Title IX rights. Additionally, many schools offer other resources such as free counseling for students who have experienced trauma, as well as SANE nurses, who are specialized in the collection of sexual assault evidence and care of survivors.
If the answers to these questions trouble you, organize a campus movement with other students or file a complaint with the US Department of Education. Anyone who suspects that their university is not abiding by their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual harassment on their campus can file a complaint, and that includes you! Progress will never occur unless we demand better of our universities.