Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Campus Responses to Sexual Assaults

By now the NY Times coverage of Hobart College's blundering treatment of a sexual assault is widespread. The assault occurred just two weeks after Anna, an eighteen year old freshman, stepped foot on campus. The article describes how friends became concerned when Anna, who had been drinking, went missing.  When they found her, she was bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be having sex with her as numerous others watched, laughed and took videos-- later she couldn't recall that incident, but did recall being raped earlier that night in a residence. A sexual assault nurse 's records indicated “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”

The national that media coverage of this case has given us an unprecedented glimpse into campus judicial responses to sexual assaults, and raises serious questions about how campuses handle sexual violence...and what more can be done to prevent assaults.

In a landmark report, The Sexual Victimization of College Women, funded by the US Department of Justice, University of Cincinnati, Professors Bonnie Fisher and Francis Cullen researched campus policies to shed  light on how effectively campuses respond to sexual violence. The report, published in 2002, (admittedly when today's incoming freshmen were just  learning how to read and add) noted significant findings that can guide policy and prevention:

  • Remember that first responders aren't the only responders. "Only 3.2 percent of rape victims and 2.3 percent of attempted rape victims reported to campus authorities...Although women were reluctant to report their victimization to police and campus officials, they were likely to disclose their experience to non-officials, especially friends...this insight could affect sexual assault prevention and education programs on college campuses by revealing the importance of guiding students on what to do if a friend discloses a sexual victimization to them." 
  • Stalking was surprisingly common affecting 13% of the female college students sampled ans lasting on average 60 days, yet there's little awareness or even discussion on campuses about stalking. Given that stalking causes psychological distress and can escalate to other forms of violence, it may warrant more attention.
  • And perhaps most notable-- most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and happen at night in residence, often with alcohol as a factor.Getting this message out to student right away on campus is essential.

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