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The White House has released new recommendations for combating campus sexual assault, an ongoing problem that has gained new attention in the past couple of years as victims of assault have called attention to inadequate responses by many top colleges and universities.
The recommendations urge colleges, among other measures, to conduct anonymous surveys about sexual assault cases, adopt anti-assault policies that have been considered successful at other universities and to better ensure that the reports of such crimes remain confidential. The guidelines are contained in a report by a White House task force that President Obama formed early this year, and the administration is likely to ask Congress to pass measures that would enforce the recommendations and levy penalties for failing to do so. The government will also open a website, NotAlone.gov, to track enforcement and provide victims with information.

Many advocates for such a crackdown may see the proposals as an inadequate response to a crisis, but the White House is hamstrung about what it can do without congressional action and has just begun its own attack on the issue.

Urging is not enough when it comes to getting colleges to report sexual assaults, since they fear that prospective students won't attend if the statistics look bad; fraternity houses are also a common site for sexual assaults, and the economic power of fraternity alumni often prevents schools from taking action against frats.

Some schools have faced consequences from the Department of Education for mishandling of sexual assault cases:

Last year, the agency fined Yale University $165,000 for failing to disclose four sexual offenses involving force over several years. Eastern Michigan University paid $350,000 in 2008 for failing to sound a campus alert after a student was sexually assaulted and killed. The department also reached a settlement last year with the University of Montana at Missoula after investigating the university’s sexual-misconduct policies and finding them woefully inadequate.
This week, Tufts University was found to have violated anti-discrimination laws in relation to sexual assault cases. In short, colleges and universities have concluded that it is in their interest to downplay and cover up sexual assault, trying to keep the world from noticing that it's happening rather than working harder to prevent it from happening.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More of this, please! One, because (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai, Penny GC, misslegalbeagle

    it is the right thing to do.  Two, because I have two daughters going off to college this fall.

    I’ve said before, I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. -- President Barack Obama

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 12:58:20 PM PDT

  •  Colleges are implicated not just in not working (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Penny GC, Meteor Blades, mookins

    harder to prevent rape, but also by:

    1) not protecting the victim from re-victimization by continued mandated contact with the rapist

    2) re-victimizing the victim through investigations that attempt to blame her for her rape ("had you had sex with him before? what were you wearing? were you drinking? did you go to his room?" etc.)

    3) not facilitating prosecution (at the victim's discretion) of the rapist, or actively discouraging it

    4) not telling victims about local non-college support services that may be free and have more expertise

    et. al.

    I'm all for more rape prevention, but it has to start and end with teaching men (99% of convicted rapists are male) not to rape.  "Don't get raped" is still the message (as one Kossack's signature state), which erases the rapist and blames the victim.

    Local hospitals and police departments may be also co-opted or infected with rape-minimization ideas (as much of our culture is), but in most cases I'd guess they are STILL a better bet than campus health centers and campus administrations.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 01:38:27 PM PDT

  •  It happens at the "best" colleges. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, misslegalbeagle

    By which I mean the re-victimization of the victims and the protection of the rapists.

    TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR ALL QUOTATIONS AND LINKS.

    Amherst:

    I became even more resolute about my decision to leave, and decided to talk with the Victim Rights Law Center, a pro-bono law firm based in Boston that my survivor group had recommended to me several weeks earlier. My preliminary intake with the VRLC was quite eye-opening: Oh Amherst? Yeah, unfortunately I know Amherst all too well. I’ve been down there many times to deal with the administration and their constant mistreatment of survivors. Our law firm keeps trying to force them to change but they just don’t seem to understand, they keep doing the same old thing.

    Amherst has almost 1800 students; last year alone there were a minimum of 10 sexual assaults on campus. In the past 15 years there have been multiple serial rapists, men who raped more than five girls, according to the sexual assault counselor. Rapists are given less punishment than students caught stealing. Survivors are often forced to take time off, while rapists are allowed to stay on campus. If a rapist is about to graduate, their punishment is often that they receive their diploma two years late.

    Or
    these administrators operate within a system that offers little alternative for people in my situation and bounds administrators to inaction because their jobs depend on it. This system is a product of a broader rape culture that permeates our society—a culture in which it is acceptable to blame a victim of assault for drinking too much, in which the burden is always on the survivor to advocate for her- or himself, in which inaction is always preferred, if only to make sure the assailant does not sue anyone for unfair punishment.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 02:09:56 PM PDT

  •  Colleges need to get out of this business. When (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, denise b

    someone is raped, the victim needs to go to the police immediately, not dither around with "Student Conduct Boards" while the case grows cold.
       Sure, awareness programs and reporting stats. Great. But this shouldn't even be a federal issue. Rape is a serious crime in every state. Report it to the cops and have them come and arrest the rapist and haul him off the campus.
      And if the rapist can't be identified, launch a full fledged investigation.

    •  Seriously, they're not the damned Vatican. (0+ / 0-)
    •  I understand your point, but this treads (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Freakinout daily

      dangerously close to victim-blaming.  

      You're right; college review panels meant to deal with underage drinking, plagiarism, and cheating, maybe some vandalism, are not courts.  I've said as much myself.  I've blamed colleges and universities for designing systems to keep rape victims from reporting their rapes to civilian (read: actual) authorities to protect the colleges' images.

      On the other hand, not every rape victim wants to press charges.  She knows that she (or he) will face, at minimum, a protracted process that will put her on trial and make her relive her trauma, and stand very little chance of putting her rapist in jail.

      There has to be some way for colleges and universities to protect rape survivors (and all students) from rapists, many of whom will rape again.  

      At a bare minimum, they need their rules to reflect that no consent = rape (rather than, as Harvard's do, only no consent with threat of physical harm = rape, which quite erases common crimes like raping those who are incapacitated or say no.  And really, threatening rape is already a threat of physical harm, what the hell?).

      © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

      by cai on Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 04:50:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (0+ / 0-)
        On the other hand, not every rape victim wants to press charges.  She knows that she (or he) will face, at minimum, a protracted process that will put her on trial and make her relive her trauma, and stand very little chance of putting her rapist in jail.
        If a person is unwilling to go through the regular justice system they should be equally unwilling to go through college "justice" systems either.

        Your interpretation is just forum shopping. It should not be allowed. The only reason a person would want to go that route is a lower burden of proof. No criminal charges should mean no college charges either.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:47:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It couldn't have anything to do with an (0+ / 0-)

          intrusive physical exam, months or years of being put on trial oneself, or having been traumatized, could it?

          Or the fact that colleges encourage students to report to them and not to the police or non-college medical centers.  Or discourage students from seeking non-college counselors.  Or tell students to forgive their rapists or take time off.  

          Nooooo, it couldn't be any of that.

          © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

          by cai on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:51:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Colleges shouldn't do any of those things (0+ / 0-)

            They should refer the matter to the police and that's about it. Students should definitely use non-college resources, including the police.

            Conviction for a crime (especially as heinous a crime as this) requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. College review boards are not there to circumvent this process.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:57:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  So you retract your statement that (0+ / 0-)

              "The only reason a person would want to go that route is a lower burden of proof"?

              © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

              by cai on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 05:00:50 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No (0+ / 0-)

                They want the person punished, but they aren't willing to go through the regular court system, through the medical exams that would prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of their assailant, etc. That's the very definition of lower burden of proof.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 05:04:42 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  But you just implicitly accepted that colleges (0+ / 0-)

                  actively try to prevent their students from pressing rape charges.

                  Doesn't it logically follow that colleges suppressing other tacks besides an internal college process, and leading students to believe they can handle rape cases, are two other reasons that rape survivors might not go to the police?

                  You admit that colleges are doing these things, and yet continue to cast aspersions on the motivations of young people who mistakenly trusted that their colleges would act in their bests interests.

                  I'm disgusted with this conversation, so I will not be reading or responding to this thread anymore.

                  © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

                  by cai on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 05:10:44 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I just said (0+ / 0-)

                    That colleges should encourage students taking issues to the police and not have an internal process for dealing with these matters other than one that depends on the outcome of the police investigation.

                    That protects the rights of the accused and also allows the victim to get a real day in court.

                    Doesn't it logically follow that colleges suppressing other tacks besides an internal college process, and leading students to believe they can handle rape cases, are two other reasons that rape survivors might not go to the police?
                    If colleges are discouraging students going to the police they are doing the wrong thing.

                    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                    by Sparhawk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 05:16:33 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Anybody have a source for individual college (0+ / 0-)

    statistics?  I'm personally interested in the Univ of Texas, where my two daughters are.

  •  Simple "solution" to this problem (0+ / 0-)

    Colleges pass sexual assault claims along to the police and avoid processing them through unqualified internal mechanisms.

    If the person is convicted of the crime, expel them. If the person is indicted, suspend them. If none of these things happen, do nothing.

    Otherwise, take steps to educate people about these issues and the legal meaning of consent and the importance of responsible behavior.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:43:32 PM PDT

  •  my alma mater is one that was cited (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cai

    and from now on they're getting a  letter of protest in lieu of my financial contributions.

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:58:11 PM PDT

  •  This is a terrific development (0+ / 0-)

    Some colleges don't respond appropriately or don't know how to.  And the topic needs to be up front for prevention as well.  I'm really impressed by how the administration took in feedback from victims, college offices and others and put together something reality based.  It's just a start, but is a really good oe.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 07:26:44 PM PDT

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