Tuesday, December 8, 2009

abyss2hope: Investigation Into Sexual Assaults On College Campuses

abyss2hope: Investigation Into Sexual Assaults On College Campuses

In this post, Marcella writes about the sickening shortcomings of established procedures for reporting on-campus rapes.

When I was at Gonzaga, we had several rapes happen in the dorms during the first month of school. One male student accused of rape was an eduation major who was nearly finished with his program. The rape charge would leave him unemployable as a teacher in the future, as Gonzaga was going to be required, if the rape was established as fact, to report to the Washington State education authorities; the student would then not be eligible for teacher certification.

So, the stakes were high.

The female student accusing him of rape was discouraged from contacting police. Campus policy was to do something along the lines of an arbitration. Hmm - in how many other types of crimes is the victim required to sit in a meeting room, without armed police presence, to try to "work things out" with her attacker? This approach still assumes that there was some "misunderstanding" that can possibly be sorted out - some sort of "he said, she said" that a wise third party might be able to resolve.

So, she showed up for the meeting. She did not have legal representation, as she had been told by campus authorities not to bring anyone. The young man, however, had two attorneys with him, and no one made them leave.

Not long after that, we in the Women's Studies club sponsored a "Take Back the Night" rally which included a speak-out on rape. Some of us noticed someone filming the entire speak-out, and at first everyone thought SOMEONE ELSE in our group had authorized it. Over the coming days, however, we learned that school officials had, without permission, set up a video camera to film these women speaking out about their rapes. The video then went to Robert Spitzer, priest and president of the university, who watched it, he said, to be sure the school was legally protected over anything any of the women claiming to have been raped on campus might say. The idea of this priest sitting alone in his office watching that tape wants me feel like vomiting even as I write this, several years later.

The Women's Studies department did succeed in getting shool policy for rape accusations changed after that. We also started doing things to protect women on campus, such as offering escorts for walks home across campus after dark and having many escorts available following school dances and any other organized events.

Part of the problem with reporting rape is that universities are required by the feds to maintain statistics about on-campus crime, and that information must be made available to parents of potential enrollees. Schools, of course, seek to minimize their crime stats, thus they have a strong incentive to keep rape charges quiet, away from the police, in "arbitration," etc. I don't know what the answer is to that one, I really don't.

(I just went to add tags to this post and realized I have NEVER before used "rape" as a tag in one of my posts. WHAT THE HELL?)

No comments: