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This fall my husband and I will be sending
our daughter off to college. It’s been a long process filled with lots of
excitement, stress, tears and the type of hand-wringing — oh, lots of hand-wringing — that comes
with making a big decision.
A few weeks ago, we sent off our first tuition check and, while slightly poorer,
patted ourselves on the backs for helping her to choose wisely.
But now the worrying starts. Will she like the school? Will she do well? And
what is increasingly becoming one of our biggest concerns: Will she be safe on
her college campus?
According to a recent report put out by the White House Task
Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, an alarming one in five women is
the victim of sexual assault in college. One
in five, so20 percent of women are sexually
assaulted in a place of higher learning. This is a sobering and disturbing statistic
to wrap our minds around. It’s starting to feel less like we’re sending our
lovely daughter off to college and more like straight into the lion’s den.
unsettling is how the victims in these cases are treated. Many are blamed for
their attacks and retaliated against by their peers while the perpetrators go
unscathed — and while administrators look the other way. In May the U.S.
Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released a list of colleges under investigation for possible
violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment
complaints. In May there were over fifty schools in the hot seat and sadly the list
continues to grow. Mom.me obtained the most updated list and as of July 16 it stands at 68.
weekend the New York Times featured
a story of a Hobart and William Smith College student named Anna,
an 18-year-old freshman who had been on campus for only two weeks before she
was raped after a party.
midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a
student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.”
When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.
early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in
central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a
football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a
darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had
their cell phones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.
case would be decided by a disciplinary board assembled by the university that
ultimately saw her attackers — three football players on the school’s winning
team — being acquitted.
a mind-boggling story filled with shoddy investigative work, misrepresented
evidence and shady affiliations (up until last year Hobart and William Smith's
chief fund-raiser also helped oversee the school's handling of sexual
assaults). The article is infuriating and should be read in its entirety, but a
warning to parents of college students — afterwards you’ll have a
less-than-rosy view of college administrations and might be tempted to drive straight
to your kid’s school and try to convince them to drop out.
Hobart and William Smith defended their case in a letter to the editor
of the Times, saying while they “regret the pain [Anna] has suffered,” they
stand by the results of their investigation. Even more predictably, another letter
in that same issue calls Anna “foolish” for putting herself in a situation
where she became a victim and that we need to teach our daughters not to drink
so much and choose the wrong men. To this writer I say, how about we teach our
sons not to rape?
story is titled "Reporting Rape and Wishing She Hadn’t," but the small sliver
of good news is that her bravery in coming forward is having the opposite
effect; it’s shining the light on the issue of campus rape and the victim-blaming that frequently accompanies these
crimes and sees the attackers get preferential treatment.
encouragingly, even more light-shining going on: The White House recently
launched a website, NotAlone.gov, as an information portal for students
to find resources on how to respond to sexual assault in schools, find crisis
services, and how to file a complaint. And there are more investigations into schools bungling cases and just generally
the end, we all know a website or any amount of investigative reporting isn’t
going to stop the violence against women that seems to be pervasive on college
campuses. But it will force schools to be more transparent in how many of these
attacks are occurring in their midst and their handling of these cases. In a
perfect world, this would lead to harsher punishment for the perpetrators of
these crimes and send a message that says — loudly and clearly — that these
crimes against our daughters will not be tolerated.
are a few short months before our own daughter sets off for her first day of
college. We’ll arm her with an arsenal of advice on how to stay safe and a
healthy dose of parental paranoia. And we’ll hope that we never get the phone
call in the middle of the night that Anna’s parents did. Let the hand-wringing
would you feel about a#rapeshaming campaign to call out college fraternities who are complicit in rape
culture? Would this be an effective way to start shifting the blame from victim