As college classes rev back into session for spring semester, there is a growing concern that is whispered about and loudly protested against on campuses all across the United States: the college rape epidemic. Although some colleges have made attempts to prevent sexual assault by bringing awareness to the problem and funding rape prevention programs in order to teach students self-defense, not much effort has been spent in identifying, arresting, and prosecuting the offenders who commit these horrendous acts.
Unlike colleges, the immediate goal of a police force is to detain the aggressor/s, which is in sharp contrast to the lack of action taken by various colleges who seldom take action in disciplining the violator. This has incited the police to become more involved in investigating campus rapes- a move that has insulted schools who believe a squad of cops are not capable of treating the situation with delicacy required. As reported in the Guardian, activists for rape victims argue that it ought to be the victim’s choice whether or not the police get involved. However, recent statistics from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), reveal that despite the fact there are 293,000 targets of sexual assault each year, 68% of the cases are not reported to the police- meaning 98% of rapists “will never spend a day in jail or prison.”
According to the Guardian, Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders believes “Rape and assault is rape and assault whether it takes place on campus or on a dark street, and if a student rapes a fellow student, that has got to be understood to be a very serious crime. It has got to get outside of the school and have a police investigation.” Title IX of the federal law states that all institutions of higher education must investigate allegations of sexual violence, but it does not demand the police to be involved or informed. This leeway has put the spotlight on prestigious universities that have been accused of not following through with investigations on reported rape cases in hopes of preserving their reputation as safe learning environments which, ultimately, leads to the “the real horror of many women who have been assaulted or raped, sitting in a classroom alongside somebody who raped them,” says Sanders, as reported in The Guardian.
Ultimately, activists still express distrust in the police forces conducting sexual assault investigations due to lack of successful prosecution of the perpetrators. Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women’s rights group UltraViolet, says in an interview with The Guardian, that Bernie Sanders “fails to acknowledge the reality many survivors face”, and his solution of reporting directly to the police would “hurt rather than help survivors” because “Sexual assault isn’t just a crime, it’s a civil rights violation, and schools are required by law to address it,” thus, “the decision about whether or not to report an assault to law enforcement should be entirely up to the survivor.”
Yet, an alternative option besides the police is one that doesn’t appear reasonable to many college students because the benefits of it have rarely been explained in detail. Vicki Schulte, political science major at Dunwoody, said, “Yes, I do feel like campus sexual assault should be reported to the police. Rape is a felony and should be handled by the police, not just the college. I would like to have more information regarding the college’s recourse for the perpetrator. Is there anything more they can do to them besides expulsion?”
The concerns of the general public stem from the lax approach certain colleges have taken in response to disciplining rapists, and they do not know the extent of the college’s capabilities when it comes to handling a sexual assault case.
It is agreed overall that “colleges should take severe action regarding the situation if sexual assault does occur”, states Maryam Khan, education major at Dunwoody Campus, but nonetheless, a majority of the public are also “baffled as to why this isn’t automatically a police issue”, says Christina Austin, an English Major at Dunwoody, for it’s a “serious, violent, harmful crime and should be treated as such.”
Yet, as reported by the Guardian, co-founder of Know Your IX, Alexandra Brodsky, takes a divergent stance on the issue- arguing that schools are more capable of assisting survivors than the police are because they can give “An extension on a paper due the week after an assault [which] might make the difference between a victim staying in school and dropping out. No police force can provide that kind of accommodation”, and colleges can act fast, she adds, “Don’t want victims ‘sitting in a classroom alongside somebody who raped them’? A school can often make that happen more quickly than a student can get a restraining order, particularly if he or she has trouble accessing a court.” According to The Guardian, Brodsky and Thomas believe that Sanders ought to “meet with survivors, hear from them directly, and then work to develop a more comprehensive plan to deal with this serious issue.”