America has a serious epidemic that’s infected our college campuses, and it’s not an illness; it’s the amount of unresolved and unreported cases of campus rape.
In a report recently released by Senator Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, it was found that most colleges don’t provide students with any sort of sexual assault training. This means that neither students nor faculty are being counseled on how to handle or prevent rape. What’s worse, schools are not even investigating the sexual assault cases that are being reported. The report also states that schools are failing to comply with laws regarding sexual assault, and they’re not properly training their staffs to handle these issues. As a result, many schools have essentially zero knowledge about just how enormous this problem that they have on their hands actually is (hint: it’s a really big one). How could they, really, if the powers that be are basically pretending that these (huge) problems don’t exist? Even if a student reports a sexual crime, it is at the discretion of the administration on how to handle it. Some choose to blame the victim, some choose to never follow through with the report, and some will choose to take their sweet time investigating the accusation.
Take, for example, a story that has recently made the news. Columbia University visual arts major Emma Sulkowicz has turned her sexual assault case into both her senior thesis and an act of performance art. Allegedly raped on her own dorm bed, Sulkowicz has vowed that until her rapist leaves the school (either of his own volition or being forced by the school), she will carry her mattress around as a symbol of the burden she has been forced to carry for two years. As she stated in an interview:
The idea of carrying the mattress represented, in my mind, carrying the weight of how the school dismissed not only me but the other two women who reported against him, and the way the police harassed me when I reported my case.
Sulkowicz also stated that her attacker was allowed to postpone the hearing for the case for months, which gave time for one of the other women involved in the case to graduate, thus removing her from the case. When she initially sought help from the police, she found they were little help, and they’d rudely asserted that most rape claims they’d investigated had been false reports. She was also re-victimized in the school’s “investigative” process by being forced to draw a diagram of her rape for administrators who were purportedly “confused” as to the logistics of her rape.
All of this goes back to the earlier statement that these women are at the mercy of the school administration and authorities, and, as a result, many never truly get justice. I mean, really, after reading what Emma went through, how many of you would feel comfortable reporting a rape? Probably not many.
Now, in Emma’s case, despite the lamentable lack of action on behalf of the University, as far as her project goes, she says that the feedback she’s received has been largely positive. This is encouraging because, as we’ve seen, our culture has a record of victim-blaming when these crimes are actually reported. For instance, in a New York Times article, a young woman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York was sexually assaulted by multiple members of the school’s football team. The administration (shockingly) cleared the alleged abusers, and the girl was made a target of hate. Upon further investigation, the Times found it difficult to navigate the extreme amount of paper work on the case. They also claimed that the school was unprepared to deal with the severity of the allegations and that the accuser had no real representation in the proceedings.
These reports and the hundreds of thousands of others like them beg the question: When will it end? How many more young women will have to endure such horrific, re-victimizing circumstances before the system is repaired and justice is upheld? When we will we begin to hold the schools accountable for the safety of the students? This is something that absolutely must change and must change soon.