Sexual Assault on Campuses: There is No Excuse to Ignore Rape!

Obama Administration raises awareness of sexual assault

In January 2014 a New York Times article reported that, President Obama commissioned a task force of senior administration officials to coordinate federal enforcement efforts of consequences of sexual assault, to put new pressure on colleges and universities to prevent and address sexual assaults on campus.  Based on a report commissioned by the Obama administration, one in five college students has been sexually assaulted, and of those survivors, only 12% file a sexual assault report.  Sexual assault survivors, often fail to report the sexual assault incident because of the perceived police “biases” against survivors, such as they were drinking at a party so they put themselves at risk for the assault. Thus, few perpetrators on college campuses are arrested or prosecuted. The task force has a 90 day deadline to create a series of best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations.

President Obama, is not the only member of the current administration pushing for gender equality rights. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who 20 years ago won the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, recently reauthorized and expanded, stated “No matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober — no man has a right to go beyond the word ‘no.’ And if she can’t consent, it also means no.” Biden reiterated the need for societal culture change. “Men have to take more responsibility; men have to intervene,” he added, “The measure of manhood is willingness to speak up and speak out, and begin to change the culture.”

Questioning the Status Quo

Having worked as a sexual assault crisis counselor for the Los Angeles Rape and Battery hotline, I agree that a crucial part of the solution to minimize sexual assaults is to include men in the conversation and change the culture of blaming the victim. Women should have the freedom to wear and go where they please without the fear of bodily harm. No one “asks” to be raped.  Currently, the sexual assault reporting process and criminal court proceedings repeatedly re-victimize the survivor by forcing them to repeat the events of the incident. Reporting a rape is not an easy decision, and it is one that many survivors struggle to make, especially as sexual assault reports are met with apathy and skepticism by university administrators or law enforcement. Currently, the Medstar Washington Medical Center is the only Sexual Assault Response Team Center (SART) in Washington, DC.  Frustratingly, George Washington Hospital is not a SART center, despite serving a large collegiate population in our nation’s capital. This is significant because when survivors file a report to law enforcement, they are taken to SART centers for a free forensic examination (rape test kit). If a survivor goes to a non-SART emergency room, staff may not have the training to perform the examination, the equipment necessary to preserve the evidence, and assault survivors may be faced with a steep bill for the services rendered. What are your thoughts? Should we as public health professionals advocate for a more resources for sexual assault survivors within the George Washington University and in the area as a whole?

F. Y. I. Links:

New York Times Article regarding the Obama Administration’s Efforts: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/politics/obama-to-create-task-force-on-campus-sexual-assaults.html?_r=1

Sexual Assault Response Team in DC:  http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/sexual-assault-response-team

Vice President Biden’s Efforts to End Violence against Women: http://www.whitehouse.gov/1is2many/about

APPS Against Sexual Assault Abuse: http://www.whitehouse.gov/1is2many/apps-against-abuse

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Sexual Assault on Campuses: There is No Excuse to Ignore Rape!

  1. This is such a critical issue about which I harbor a great passion, especially considering that I volunteered previously for the DC Rape Crisis Center and now work with RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), so I am thrilled to see conversations igniting around this issue. Just a note from a policy standpoint — any survivor who comes into another hospital aside from Washington Hospital Center for a sexual assault case is supposed to be transferred there to receive a forensic exam and care, all of which should be offered free of charge. In many cases, free transportation can even be provided to reduce the financial burden on the survivor. Unfortunately, not all DC hospitals and hospital staff are well-informed on this policy, and some fail to make the appropriate call when working with a sexual assault survivor. While making GW Hospital a SART center is a potentially valuable idea, I believe we will be able to make an even deeper impact if all DC hospitals simply do a better job of instructing their staff on referring patients to the correct hospital, since GW Hospital is far from the only one failing survivors. As always, the issue is far from cut and dry, but even this seemingly simple spread of information could make a world of difference in how survivors are cared for and treated.

  2. Thank you for sharing this post and for the informative follow-up comment. I wrote about victim services in Lebanon in my blog post, but here you show that even in the U.S. we still need to work on the services we provide to survivors. The President and Vice President coming out in major support of women’s and survivor’s rights is a good step in the right direction. I am very interested to follow this task force and see what good changes might come about.

  3. Thank you for your comments. I am so passionate about this issue because I have seen first hand, the difference that well-trained personnel make when survivors go in for a SART exam. I agree, this is issue is far from cut and dry. I think that there needs to be a survivor-centered curriculum disseminated among hospital staff, that empowers the survivor during this difficult time. Also, I am not sure if both of you are aware but there was a riveting and very difficult to read personal account of a survivor who did not receive the appropriate treatment from Harvard. The link to the article is below, it’s a great read. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/3/31/Harvard-sexual-assault/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s