It’s as if colleges and universities across the country are competing to see who can handle sex crimes the most poorly.
Ask 21-year-old Ari Mostov, who says a fellow student raped her at the University of Southern California.
When the screenwriting major went to the campus authorities, she says they told her pursuing the case with the LAPD would mean “tough detectives” and name-calling in court. Plus, it’s not like Mostov “technically” was raped anyway because “he didn’t orgasm.” (Somewhere with someone I’ve lost a bet that Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment couldn’t be topped.)
“The school did everything it could to dissuade me from talking about being raped and asking for help,” she told ABCNews.com.
Mostov says the university wouldn’t even move around her or her alleged rapist’s class schedules so that she wouldn’t have to see him everyday for an entire semester.
Another USC student, Tucker Reed, says she provided the university with evidence that she was raped, including a recording of her alleged attacker admitting to it. The investigation dragged on for six months. The school did not take disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrator.
“The process made me feel raped a second time.” That’s Reed speaking earlier this week during a protest against the university’s handling of reports of sexual assault on campus. Frustrated with the response by USC officials to their reports of sexual abuse, more than a dozen students went over their heads on May 22 and filed a complaint with the feds.
The U.S. Department of Education this week confirmed it has opened a Title IX sex discrimination investigation to determine whether USC violated the survivors’ civil rights.
Unfortunately, rape, the number-one violent crime on college campuses, is bigger than USC. One in four college women surveyed are victims of rape or attempted rape, according to 2008 Department of Justice data. Colleges with 6,000+ students average one rape per day in a school year.
Since the start of this year, students from the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Occidental College and Swarthmore College similarly have filed Title IX complaints.
For anyone else who feels keeping a running tally of the colleges under fire for not taking appropriate action against sexual assaults is becoming increasingly difficult, I’ve made a list:
- Amherst College
- *University of California, Berkeley
- *University of Colorado, Boulder
- Dartmouth College
- Georgetown University
- University of Montana
- *University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Notre Dame
- Occidental College
- Otterbein University
- Princeton University
- Swarthmore College
- *United States Naval Academy
- University of Virginia
- Wesleyan University
- *West Point
- William and Mary
- Yale University
*These universities were named among Forbes’ Best Public Colleges in 2013 and then promptly called out for botching reports of sexual assaults in Jezebel.
And those are just the most recent and highly publicized cases. After all, most college women who are raped (95 percent) never report to the police.
Now for the good news. More students are speaking out, informing their peers of their rights and organizing nationwide to improve the way their schools deal with sexual assaults.
And it’s working. Colleges and universities like Amherst, University of Montana, UNC, Occidental and Yale are beginning to address their rape problems by reviewing their procedures, talking with survivors and honestly reporting information. While these institutions’ actions more closely resemble a cleanup of a massive PR disaster than a concerted effort to protect their students from sexual assault, they are signs of progress.
If we want to truly change rape culture on college campuses, we need to begin with open, meaningful and, yes, at times painful dialogue at home, in school and in the media. Instead of picking apart hookup culture, consensual sex and young women’s “empowerment” or “degradation” by participating in it, let’s focus on consent and the encounters that lack it (say sexual assaults on campus, for example). Let’s talk about the 84 percent of college men who committed rape and then said what they did definitely was not rape. Let’s talk about what that says about relationships and the need for proper sexuality education.
That sexual assaults on college campuses are a national trend is bad.
But covering it up, blaming survivors and not learning what it says about where we are as a society is much worse.
Alyson Neel recently returned to the United States after working for a newspaper in Istanbul for the last 2 1/2 years. In the fall, she plans to begin graduate studies in public affairs at Princeton University. Follow her on Twitter @AlysonNeel.