About twenty percent of women who attend college will become victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate, according to a new report funded by the Department of Justice. A nine-month investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that a culture of silence at many universities prevents many victims from reporting incidents.

The first and second articles in a series were published this week on CPI’s website, along with audio slideshows—interviews with women who reflect on their own experiences. From CPI:

Many victims don’t report at all, because they blame themselves, or don’t identify what happened as sexual assault; one national study found that more than 95 percent of students who are sexually victimized do not report to police or campus officials. Local criminal justice authorities regularly shy away from such cases, because they are “he said, she said” disputes sometimes clouded by drugs or alcohol. That frequently leaves students to deal with campus judiciary processes so shrouded in secrecy that they can remain mysterious even to their participants.

Critics question whether faculty, staff, and students should even adjudicate what amounts to a felony crime. But these internal proceedings actually grow from two federal laws, known as Title IX and the Clery Act, which require schools to respond to allegations of sexual assault on campus and to offer key rights to victims.

Institutional barriers compound the problem of silence, and few victims in fact make it to a campus hearing. Those who do come forward can encounter secret disciplinary proceedings, closed-mouth school administrations, and off-the-record negotiations. At times, school policies and practices can lead students to drop complaints, or submit to gag orders—a practice deemed illegal. College administrators generally believe the existing processes provide a fair and effective way to deal with highly sensitive allegations, but the Center’s investigation has found that these processes have little transparency or accountability, and regularly result in little or no punishment for alleged assailants.

>> See the full project here: “Sexual Assault on Campus”

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