Curbing Violence on Campus

Curbing Violence on Campus

To mark the start of Sexual Assault Awareness month, The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, devoted its entire front page to addressing the epidemic of rape and sexual assault on university campuses. The editorial called for the school’s rules to stop treating rape like a minor infraction and instead reflect the reality of what it is: a violent crime.

And when it became apparent that George Washington University’s administration wasn’t responding to sexual assault cases adequately, a student named Emily Rasowsky founded GW Students Against Sexual Assault to help her peers. Occidental College’s Sexual Assault Coalition took it a step further, filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, a branch of the Federal Government about the mishandling of assault cases at the school. Student activists are making noise about campus violence because some of their administrators are staying quiet. They’re standing up for this issue on hundreds of campuses across the country.

Let’s talk about the facts: 20 to 25 percent of women in college experience rape or attempted rape. Prosecuting sexual assault at universities is such a difficult, traumatic process that 95 percent of campus rapes go unreported. While some universities have turned a blind eye to campus violence, the fact is that it happens on all campuses. We must encourage change at an institutional level to ensure that real progress can be made.

In this past year, we’ve seen a rape survivor at Amherst College write about her assault and subsequent poor treatment by the university in her campus newspaper. But the story proved to be a wake-up call to President Biddy Martin, who responded with meetings, teach-ins, and real reform. Most importantly, Dr. Martin removed the tribunal of students and professors that previously judged sexual assault cases and appointed trained experts.

Tools such as blogs and Twitter allow survivors to publicize and share stories which school administrations might rather keep quiet. All these signs of student activity are encouraging. We’re also hopeful that university presidents and administrators are following the example of Amherst’s President Martin, and putting time and attention into the policies and programs that serve victims of all campus violence.

To help guide administrators at schools like University of North Carolina and George Washington University, Futures worked with a national panel of experts to develop guidelines for preventing and responding to gender-based violence in higher education. We hope that these guidelines provide a blue print for creating safer college campuses that do not tolerate any form of abuse or violence. To learn more, visit: http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/content/features/detail/1728/.

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