Campus Sexual Assaults, Complicated Issue

In my article about ‘Who Should Investigate Campus Sexual Assaults‘ we came to the conclusion that “the question is a long way from being resolved.”

Here we will share with you more headlines stories about campus sexual assaults, a complicated topic, but it won’t go away.

This story from a television station in Texas is about the underlying reasons of under reporting of campus assaults. It seems that of all the colleges and universities that are being investigated by the Department of Justice for mishandling sexual assaults on campus, half of them are in Texas. Federal law prohibits discrimination against those who had been sexually assaulted.

Laura Dunn, who is now an attorney in Washington DC, helps student victims through a nonprofit. She said many more assaults are now being reported that do not get fully investigated. She points out something that we have been saying for years, that campus police forces are part of the campus system and they don’t want to make waves. She firmly believes that sexual violence will continue to be a problem until an investment is made in meaningful prevention education that starts in middle school through high school.

The story by ABC news seems to blame campus sexual assaults on under age drinking because campuses turn a blind eye to it. This story is centered on Wolfgang Ballinger, who is president of the Psi Epsilon Chi fraternity at Cornell. He was charged with first-degree attempted rape, first-degree criminal sexual assault, and first-degree sexual abuse. It was noted that the fraternity is cooperating with Cornell during its investigation.

In a separate piece by CNN on the same sex assault case mentioned above they added that the fraternity was suspended. The suspension is invoked when “details of a credible report compel the university to cease activities of the organization for the safety of the members, those joining or guests,” Apgar said.  During this suspension, the chapter “may not engage in any activities other than operation of its residence,” according to the statement.  In a statement Friday, Psi Upsilon executive director Thomas Fox said the fraternity has suspended all chapter activity on campus.

“Sexual assault, and any form of sexual harassment, is against our policy and in opposition of the values of Psi Upsilon” Fox said. “Our chapter is cooperating with Cornell’s investigation into this matter and any members involved will be held accountable. The Chi Chapter at Cornell has a distinguished history with the University and we are committed to continuing to be a benefit to Cornell and the Ithaca Community. “

In this story in the Huffington post is about the program that leads to bystander intervention whenever people witness situations that could lead to assault. The program is officially called “Green Dot” and is one of the bystander intervention programs that hundreds of colleges across the country are using to combat sexual violence. One grant from the Department of Education to study the impact of bystander intervention found that fraternity men who are trained in the program were 40% less likely to commit sexual violence. The story points out that as colleges nationwide come under heightened scrutiny for how they address sexual assault, bystander intervention has emerged as a favorite strategy for preventing rape on campus. It provides hope that students can prevent other people from engaging in bad behavior. The White House is heavily promoting the program.

This is an editorial in the Guardian by Jessica Valenti about campus assault stats and the naysayers who doubt them. She makes the point that even though the statistics may vary, the studies over several decades have repeatedly confirmed that there are extremely high rates of sexual assaults on US campuses. She makes the point that not trusting statistics is an age-old tactic designed to distract people from the truth.

This story from ABC news reminds me of something that I wrote several years ago about parents sitting down with their young daughters before they go to college and having a heart-to-heart talk about campus crime education. “The numbers are staggering” so says the article with a sexual assault occurring every 107 seconds and the numbers while they can be argued about seem to center around one in four women is sexually assaulted at some point in her college lifetime. And yet, with those high figures campus sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes of all for a wide variety of complicated reasons including, among others, peer pressure from fellow classmates. It is not uncommon for the victim to live in the same dormitory or go to the same classes with the perpetrator. How uncomfortable is that?

Many parents may feel uncomfortable talking about this topic, but they owe it to their daughters to make them aware of the issue so that she can take some preventative steps that might include taking a self-defense course or arming herself with a self-defense pepper spray.

The CBS affiliate in Albany, New York did a story that showed that Sex Assault Reporting in New York State colleges as skyrocketed under new policies. In the last two years since the government began cracking down on sexual violence and colleges the number of schools under federal investigation for handling assaults is gone up six fold. Experts say this reflects better reporting rather than actual uptick in sexual violence. At the State University of New York at Albany, for example, officials say the number of alleged victims seeking help increased from 23 to 150.

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What other factors are involved in campus assaults? Should universities be involved in investigating them? Share your opinion about this hot topic. What is your view on campus assaults? Are they over/under exaggerated? Let’s hear your thoughts!