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Do Colleges Let Rapists Off the Hook?

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Consider this scary statistic when you send your daughter to college: One in five college women will be sexually assaulted during their tenure.

woman being stalked

Ronda Kaysen: A chilling new study by the Center for Public Integrity has found that not only are women raped by their classmates on campus, but college administrators do little, if anything, to punish their attackers.

While the students who are found "responsible" for sexual assaults face few consequences for their actions, victims endure years of emotional torment and see their lives turned upside down. Many times, victims drop out of school -- while their attackers remain free to graduate.

Administrators think that "sanctioning" attackers is a thoughtful way to hold abusive students accountable -- but the punishments rarely include expulsion and are often so mild they don't affect the attacker's life at all. In a case involving a student at Indiana University, the rapist was suspended for a single semester: the summer -- when he wasn't even in school anyway.

Even in cases with a repeat offender who has been found responsible for multiple rapes, school officials are lenient. They often dismiss campus rape as a situation of drunken miscommunication, in a sense placing the onus on the victim for putting herself in a compromising situation.

Colleges are left in charge of handling what really ought to be criminal matters, in large part because of Title IX anti-sexual discrimination regulations and the Clery Act, which requires colleges to disclose information about violence on campus to parents and students. (The Clery Act was named after 19-year-old university freshman Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986.)

The Center's findings are deeply disturbing. Young women turn to their college administrators for help because the criminal justice system has a reputation for being unsympathetic to rape victims, often blaming them for the attacks and denigrating their characters. But when a student is brave enough to come forward, rather than find support in the school that houses her, she is ignored and, in effect, further victimized.

Letting a rapist off the hook doesn't do anyone any favors. All it does is leave another student vulnerable to being attacked by the same perpetrator. It's a shame school administrators don't see the profound disservice they are doing to their female students by protecting the men who rape them.

2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara February 25, 2010, 5:35 AM

No one is stopping these girls from going to the police and filing charges.

Sadly in many of these cases there is not enough proof to ensure that all parties are treated fairly. Colleges can only do so much when it’s a he said she said situation.

Jason February 25, 2010, 10:28 AM

Just as scary are all the children who get raped by priests and nothing is done.

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