Sexual assault on college campuses is and has been a growing problem in the United States. A recent study conducted by the American Association of Universities found that one fourth of students on college campuses were victims of sexual assault at some point in their college career. A study by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reveled that the largest number of sexual assault crimes occur in the month of October when college freshman are new to campus.
There is little justice for sexual assault crimes committed on college campuses. The greatest effort currently being made by universities is to publish tips for prevention and ways for students to avoid becoming victims of sexual assault. Students are advised not to drink too much, not share their phone number, and to walk with confidence and aggression.
But these prevention tactics are a flawed solution because they imply that there are things that the victim of sexual assault could have done differently. This shifts blame to the victim and makes them feel like their actions caused the attack to take place. According to the National Institute of Justice, nine out of ten victims of college campus sexual assault know their offender. Consent is the important factor in a case of sexual assault, not what the victim did or did not do to prevent it.
Colleges and universities are required to investigate and judge reported sex crimes without first involving law enforcement. Schools, however, cannot offer the due process protections of the criminal justice system and are not capable of properly punishing a perpetrator. When a student is found guilty by the school, the greatest possible consequence is expulsion. Therefore, these perpetrators are not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Last year, the nation was captivated by the story of a University of Virginia student who disappeared from her college campus. The discovery of her remains and the arrest of her murderer revealed that her killer had been expelled from a university in 2003 as punishment in a case where he was found guilty of committing a sexual assault crime. Local police were never notified of his actions, making this a tragic example of what can result from university justice in cases of college campus sex crime.
The Campus Safe Act, introduced to the House of Representatives this year, would require that local law enforcement be notified and be the first to evaluate cases of sexual assault on college campuses. This would provide greater safety and awareness to students, increase education, and allow justice to be served in cases of sexual assault. Universities need to make resources easy to find and teach students that consent is essential in all sexual encounters. The most important change that can be made in prevention of campus sex crime is a change in attitude towards the victim. Victims deserve to have confidence that they can report sexual attacks without fear that their story will be devalued because of preventative steps they may have missed.
Universities are required by federal law to provide assistance to victims of campus sexual assault. If you wish to learn more about college campus sexual assault, contact attorney Lindsay Cordes at Thomas Law Offices for more information.