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Colleges need to address sexual assaults on campus

What used to be a fun and exciting college experience is turning into a nightmare for many students.

Parties have become rape scenes and universities and colleges seem to be more concerned with their reputation than with their students who are paying a terribly high price to be there. Not only is sexual assault in colleges becoming more prevalent, the consequences are devastating and justice is barely served, if at all.

If you’re a female, your chances of being sexually assaulted in college outweigh your chances of contracting the flu (one in five women will experience sexual assault in college while her chances of getting the flu are 8-20 percent.)

Sexual assault is prevalent on almost every campus and sadly we can testify to that, having had cases on our campus in the past. Even our neighboring campus, California State University San Marcos, reported two cases of sexual assault in the same week. But, the act of sexual assault isn’t the only problem. In the unfortunate event that you find yourself a victim of sexual assault, statistics show that you are more than likely to keep quiet about it.

It gets worse. If you did report it to school authorities, the assailant would only receive a mild punishment such as suspension, which was the case in Margaux J.’s experience.

Margaux, a student at Indiana University, was raped at the university in 2006 and the only punishment her assailant received was suspension for the summer semester.

The way in which colleges are handling these reports is severely flawed and they are only worsening the problem.

If students aren’t receiving support from school officials or are encouraged to keep quiet about the crime, then they are less likely to report it in future assaults. The crime is kept concealed and it persists. Furthermore, the distress these victims suffer may trigger them to drop out while the assailants graduate. Do we want these criminals to become our future doctors and teachers? Of course not.

The most effective solution would be for colleges to bring attention to this issue, educate their students and give the assailants a fair punishment. These schools should furthermore encourage students to speak up, provide more support to the victims and treat these cases as what they really are – crimes.

Perhaps the underlying problem in sexual assault crimes is the way colleges are treating the crimes, or rather, failing to treat them. A rise in sexual assault reports may be a good thing as it means more students are reporting these crimes and the schools are, too. Ultimately, this means more attention is being brought to this issue and students, school officials and government leaders will take action to halt this crime.

Under the Clery Act, established in 1990, colleges must issue annual crime reports and the most recent reports were issued on Oct. 1, covering the year 2013. According to the Huffington Post, the reported numbers of sexual assaults at universities and colleges across the country were higher than they were in previous years. For example, Occidental College in Los Angeles reported 12 sexual assaults in 2011, 11 in 2012 and 64 in the report it issued this month.

Higher reports are actually a positive thing – it means these schools are opening up about these crimes, which they have been bad about doing in the past. Officials at University of Southern California and Occidental College, for instance, stated they had under-reported sexual assault cases for 2010 and 2011, according to the L.A. Times (USC failed to report 13 cases while Occidental failed to report 24). Not only is failing to report crimes immoral, it is a violation of federal law.

Sexual assault and rape crimes are issues that must be addressed by students, school officials and government officials alike. Bystanders at parties should report the crimes, school officials should give fair punishment and victims should be encouraged to speak up.

Fortunately, many students have begun to do so. You may have heard of “mattress girl,” the Columbia University student who was raped by a close friend on campus and carries the mattress on which she was raped until the university expels her assailant. Her act has inspired other university students to do the same as an anti-rape movement across different colleges.

The president, too, is taking action against this issue. The Obama administration launched a campaign called “It’s On Us,” which is an effort in combating sexual assault crimes and seeks to raise awareness and educate students. The campaign will be advertised on popular television channels and on the internet and will host several celebrities to promote the campaign.

The key to preventing these sexual crimes from occurring is to be educated and use some common sense. When at a party, don’t take opened drinks, stay close to your friends and if you happen to be a bystander of this crime, report it.

As students, we all want to make the most out of our college experiences. It’s the time of our lives where we can be independent and have fun. We all have a role in addressing the issues that can potentially add fear and danger to an experience that should be nothing but enlightening, fun and memorable. None of us should withdraw from college activities out of fear of being physically violated. In order to live it up, we must remember to always speak up.

 

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