college campus

*In January of 2014, President Barack Obama announced the formation of a White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assaults on campus. According to the White House “an estimated 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college.”

In conducting research for my latest book, Accused, which deals with a teen girl who becomes a victim of rape and a serial rapist who uses the date rape drug with his victims, I found a disturbing trend. Rape culture exists on colleges all across the US and it appears that colleges and universities are adept in hiding the sexual assaults from the public.  But, thank goodness, the victims are more empowered than ever and key institutions are getting involved.

USA Today recently ran an article about Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino who both were sexually assaulted while students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They filed a Title IX complaint against their school with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The fact that these women did not give up after they were victimized indicates a cultural change in how rape victims are speaking up and even fighting.

Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, who is the chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight recently sent a survey to 350 colleges and universities to gather information on how they respond to sexual assaults on campus. Key in this survey is discovering how colleges/universities investigate crimes and how students are notified about available services.  The fact that this Senator is digging into this issue in this way could potentially shed a lot of light and affect university policies as it relates to sexual assault.

The Huffington Post has an entire section called Breaking the Silence: Addressing Sexual Assault On Campus.  It includes numerous articles: Colleges Accused of Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases, turning over College Sexual Assaults to Police, and an article about Brown University allowing a rapist who choked his victim to be back on campus among others. The fact that the Huffington Post has dedicated such articles to bring awareness about sexual assaults on campus is unprecedented. What other sizable news outlets are dedicating this amount of resources to such an issue? None.

More victims are speaking out and finally, institutions are standing up, investigating, and making efforts to change policies which disempower the victims and protect the perpetrators. For years, victims were shamed and blamed for being raped. As the tables turn, we should see more shame and blame placed on the universities and colleges for being complicit in allowing rape culture to exist on college campuses.

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yasmin shiraz

Yasmin Shiraz