College Rape: Who Should She Call?

Saturday, April 26, 2014


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Who should a college student call in the event of a sexual assault?

Recently, Brown University student Lena Sclove levied a series attacks against Brown University administrators for their handling of the discipline of her rapist, making the charges in front of a crowd of fellow Brown students and friends.

The core charge brought forth by Sclove was that Brown administrators suspended the alleged rapist for just one year after the discipline council had recommended two years - enough time for Sclove to finish her studies as a student. SEE VIDEO HERE.

Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One, Rhode Island's sexual assault and trauma resource center, offered her perspective on what sexual assault survivors should know -- and that Day One is a resource to assist survivors through all steps of the process. (Day One's 24 hour a day victim-of-crime helpline is 1-800-494-8100).

"I think people should be well informed of all of their options -- and all of their options are not just keeping it on campus, "said Langhammer. "They can call us, we can talk with victims, set up crisis counseling, we're available for victims 24/7. We can help them sort out options and help them make a decision in their best interest, and they're fully informed. There's a timeliness factor."

The Providence police this week urged college students to immediately report sexual assaults.

"Sexual assault is a crime, and colleges aren't equipped to deal with crimes," continued Langhammer. "First degree sexual assault can carry a life sentence."

Colleges and Law Enforcement

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"Universities are not well equipped to handle reports of sexual assaults. Their internal judicial systems were set up to handle issues like plagiarism, not violent felonies like rape or murder. While there are lots of steps that colleges could take to improve their internal systems, it is unrealistic to think that they will ever be adequate to handle such a serious problem," said Scott Berkowitz, President and Founder of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network).

"On those campuses where security is handled by an entity other than local law enforcement, university/college security teams should establish a collaborative working relationship with local law enforcement," Berkowitz continued. "This is something encouraged through laws like the federal Campus SAVE Act. Survivors should be encouraged to report the assault to local law enforcement, but ultimately, it is up to them whether or not to report the crime."

Sclove enlisted the support of Robert Hoatson, Co-Founder and President of Road to Recovery in New Jersey, who explained his view of both Sclove's position -- and that of colleges.

"A student should be guaranteed of two things when going to college: a good education and safe environs. The policies of Brown U. do not allow for that right now," said Hoatson. "I recommend that all victims call the police even if there is a question about whether or not the statute of limitations applies. The first line of reporting should be the police. Colleges and universities should be mandated reporters of abuse. There is a growing movement on college campuses (even President Obama referenced it recently) to tighten up policies regarding sexual abuse. It’s long overdue."

Hoatson continued, "Why would a woman make it up? Yes, it happens occasionally that someone accuses someone unjustly, but that is very rare. I can sit with a victim for 20 minutes and gage fairly well whether or not they are telling the truth. Parental support is crucial and is the support of advocacy groups. College campuses are larger versions of families. They become so entrenched in tradition, folklore, fundraising, image-building, etc., that they forget to treat each person as an individual. Colleges are afraid that negative publicity will affect the bottom line."

Title IX Implications

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Anne Hedgepeth with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) spoke to how adherence for colleges to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.

Advocacy group "End Rape on Campus" explains Title IX implications. "Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault, and rape that are “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.” Even a single instance of rape or sexual assault by another student, faculty, or staff member could meet this standard."

"The point is that schools are supposed to providing an equitable opportunity and a safe environment for all students on campus," said Hedgepeth. "What that comes down to is dealing with a hostile environment. And that's not the same as sufficient judgment in the criminal justice system. The role of colleges is to help survivors. There's an absolute requirement they speak to a safe environment."

Hedgepeth noted that the Obama Administration is due to release its report on its "Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault" that was established earlier this year -- as early as this week.

The Obama Administration said in January, "The prevalence of rape and sexual assault at our Nation's institutions of higher education is both deeply troubling and a call to action. Studies show that about one in five women is a survivor of attempted or completed sexual violence while in college. In addition, a substantial number of men experience sexual violence during college. Although schools have made progress in addressing rape and sexual assault, more needs to be done to ensure safe, secure environments for students of higher education."

"It's been a great and busy time, the spotlight's shining on the issue," said Hedgepeth, of April being "National Sexual Assault Awareness Month." "AAUW's excited to see these steps in enforcement and transparency -- and survivors coming bravely forward to share their tales had been a huge part of moving this issue forward."


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