Amid controversy at the University of Virginia, where a young woman, Jackie, recently came forward about the brutal gang rape she experienced by 7 men at a campus fraternity party, sexual assault on college campuses is becoming an increasingly prevalent media topic. Yesterday, the seventh sexual assault was reported at San Diego State University since the semester began.
I have a distinct memory at one of my first fraternity parties, where a close friend witnessed a fraternity brother mixing her drink in his closet. That’s right – in his closet. He conspicuously handed her a solo cup filled with an interesting mix of alcohol and mystery ingredients from his deep, dark closet. She turned to him and said:
“I’ll drink it, if you drink it first.”
Without a word, he put the cup down and walked away.
According to a report released earlier this year, more than 40% of institutions have not conducted a single investigation into a sexual assault allegation in the past 5 years, despite the fact that almost 1 in 5 women report being raped at some point in their lives. The report, issued at the request of Senator Clair McCaskill, investigated how colleges and universities across the United States handle sexual assault reporting, prevention, and adjudication.
Results indicate that many institutions fail to implement best practices regarding the handling of sexual violence on campus. Many also fail to comply with regulations and legal requirements.
Around the time the report was released, the U.S. Department of Education published a lengthy list of colleges and universities under investigation for potentially violating federal law in accordance with sexual harassment and violence procedures. Southern Methodist University made the list, as did the University of Virginia.
Arizona State University
Butte-Glen Community College District
Carnegie Mellon University
Catholic University of America
College of William and Mary
Cuny Hunter College
Florida State University
Franklin and Marshall College
Frostburg State University
Harvard University—Law School
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Michigan State University
Minot State University
Ohio State University
Oklahoma State University
Pennsylvania State University
Sarah Lawrence College
Southern Methodist University
Suny at Binghamton
The University of Texas-Pan American
University of California-Berkeley
University of Chicago
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Denver
University of Connecticut
University of Denver
University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Idaho
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Southern California
University of Virginia
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Washington State University
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
However, perhaps it isn’t the data or statistics that we need to hear, but the voices of those who have been silenced. The voices of women like Jackie, women who have been gang raped by several men on campuses that boast prestige and security. Perhaps that knowing a victim, a survivor, will do more than knowing the facts.
I am indebted to Jackie, to any woman who has the courage to come forward about the most traumatizing encounter of her life. I owe these women my safety, my gratitude, and my strength.
Because if they have the courage to step forward, maybe one day we won’t be afraid to look back.