The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Victims of campus rape should be dialing 911

If a 19-year-old high-school dropout raped by her ex-boyfriend wants justice, she calls the police. The same should apply to a 19-year-old college freshman similarly attacked by another student.
But it doesn't apply nearly enough. Colleges have let themselves become arbiters of violent crime. They have no business being in that business. Furthermore, they got into the business for bad reasons.
The inevitable result has been students suing their universities over what they see as an inadequate response to their allegations of sexual abuse. The feds are investigating several schools — including Harvard, Princeton, Ohio State, Florida State and Washington State University — over the matter.
Many colleges want sexual crimes on campus handled in-house so the public doesn't learn of them. In Rhode Island, for example, colleges have recorded 500 sexual assaults over a recent decade, but only one involved a call to police.
The other bad reason is that many of the aggrieved women prefer going to university authorities for a more cushioned experience. It is believed that a college-based panel investigating charges of “gender-based sexual misconduct” will be more sympathetic to the woman's narrative.
It is also assumed that colleges will place less emphasis than police on possible mitigating circumstances: Whether the woman and her alleged attacker were drunk. Whether they already had a consensual sexual relationship, which is usually the case.
Oddly, the accusers often want to protect their alleged attackers from the harsher treatment they might receive in the criminal justice system. The Columbia University student magazine The Blue and White carried a perceptive analysis of what's going on, by Barnard College senior Anna Bahr. She wrote of the complainants:
“Some explicitly hoped for leniency — seeing their assaulter participate in a remedial, community-based program was more attractive than expulsion. In other cases, students felt conflicted about sending their assaulter to jail — ‘ruining the life' — of an individual who had once been a friend.”
Thing is, outside the cosseted confines of the university gates, victims don't assume they may customize the punishment meted out to their assailants. And you do wonder about the blurred lines — in some of the women's heads — regarding the true nature of the crimes they're alleging. In New York state, conviction for first-degree rape can bring up to 25 years in prison.
One celebrated case involves Emma Sulkowicz. While a sophomore at Columbia University, Sulkowicz says she invited into her room a man she considered a good friend and with whom she had had consensual sex twice. In the course of having sex, he became violent, hitting her and forcing her to have anal sex.
She says she felt disrespected by the university adjudicators and wronged when the panel held the male student “not responsible.” So she's suing the university for, among other things, not protecting her from the possibility that she might run into her alleged assailant at the library.
And she still hasn't called the police. In New York, the statute of limitations for someone to be charged with the sexual assault of an adult is five years. Sulkowicz could report him to law enforcement today.
Rape and any other violent attack should be a matter for police, not a team of university counselors, administrators and panels. If the police are not up to the task — and they've gotten better at dealing sensitively with sexual crimes against women — then that's the issue.
A university wanting to ease the perceived or real trauma of its charges might offer counseling and medical services. But when a student insists she's been raped and wants justice done, then the appropriate guidance is to help her dial 911.
Froma Harrop is a Providence Journal columnist. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

Sexy, cheesy J-Lo
Sexy, cheesy J-Lo: 'Boy Next Door' follows the 'Fatal Attraction' blueprint
Little house, big history
Little house, big history: One of Everett's oldest homes heading to foreclosure
Chip on their shoulder
Chip on their shoulder: Although at times misguided, Seahawks use doubt as motivation
'70s-style cinema
'70s-style cinema: ‘A Most Violent Year’ conjures best of gritty filmmaking
SnoCoSocial