We have heard many stories about how rape and sexual assault on college campuses go largely ignored, how campus police often victim blame or don’t follow up on investigations, or even how people found guilty of sexual assault are not adequately punished.
I have witnessed this kind of thing as well. After a good friend of mine was consistently harassed by a male classmate, along with many other women in the same class, they went to the University administrators and filed an official complaint. The problem was, the man doing the harassing was well connected, and was the son of rich and litigious parents. After an hour’s worth of grilling from a panel of administrators, who asked the women if they had yelled “no” and/or “stop it” to their abuser loudly and forcefully enough, they concluded that they did not adequately convey the message that his advances were unwanted, that his rape threats were not threatening enough, and that any further action or public discussion of the matter on their part could result in them being sued.
On this matter, the Center for Public Integrity states:
Students found “responsible” for sexual assaults on campus often face little or no punishment from school judicial systems, while their victims’ lives are frequently turned upside down, according to a year-long investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. Administrators believe the sanctions administered by the college judiciary system are a thoughtful way to hold abusive students accountable, but the Center’s probe has discovered that “responsible” findings rarely lead to tough punishments like expulsion — even in cases involving alleged repeat offenders.
The emphasis is mine, because that is the part that always gets to me, including in the case in which this happened to my friend. I couldn’t get around the giant elephant in the room that no one seemed to be addressing, nor did any of the victims think of this when I brought it up.
Why is any of this being handled by the University at all? Why is there such a thing as an “investigation by campus police”? Are Universities somehow little independent countries within cities, like Vatican City or San Marino?
Isn’t rape and sexual assault just as illegal on school campuses, and thus just as much under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement, as it is if it happens anywhere else?
Tough punishment like expulsion? Really? How about tough punishment like a freaking jail sentence?! Am I missing something here? Can someone please explain to me why campus police exist?
I understand the benefit of having security in a place like a college campus, like there is security at a shopping mall or a club. It can be beneficial to have trained security personnel at a location with many people and/or in a place where many are drinking. But if a rape happens in a store or in a club, you don’t report it to the security guard and meekly accept the supermarket or the club’s ultimate decision on the matter. You don’t content yourself with them banning the offender from the store. You call the fucking police, because rape and sexual assault is illegal. It is not a matter of plagiarism, or some other breaking of school rules which are not applicable to the real world. It is a fucking crime, and what business do campus security and college administrators have investigating and passing judgement on real crimes? If a student is murdered on a school campus, do you report it to campus security and let them handle the investigation?
I feel like I must be missing something, because I have never heard this come up in any of the sexual assault on campus stories I have heard so far. But try as I might, I don’t understand why campus police and school administrators have so much goddamned authority over violent crimes that happen on campus, nor why you are supposed to report such things to them rather than to normal law enforcement, as if you are filing a complaint about your roommate playing their music too loud when you’re trying to study. Can someone please explain this to me? Or is it just one of those examples of our society not thinking that sexual assault is that big of a deal?
I mentioned murder before, because it would be inconceivable to imagine that a murder on a college campus would be investigated by anyone other than police. I remember when a drug addict looking for money broke into a student’s dorm room at my University and crushed the student’s trachea when he was discovered, and the police was called immediately to receive his statement. Murder, assault, that is all reported and handed over to the police, but date rape? Sexual assault? No no, the protocol is an internal investigation, and if the student is expelled, well then, justice is served.