Colleges and Universities Should Change How They Handle Sexual Assaults

Sexual assault at universities is real, and it’s more pervasive than you might think. One out of five women has reported being the victim of sexual assault during their college years. Not all attacks are disclosed, so the number of sexual assaults is likely much higher than what the data shows.

Currently, universities handle assaults in surprising ways. Colleges do a poor job of compiling data from university police or local law enforcement. What’s more appalling is that the penalties for assault are lax: punishment ranges from a one-day suspension (Yale University) to being tasked to write a paper reflecting on your actions (University of Colorado).

What colleges and universities have been doing

In 2011 the Obama administration changed the Title IX policy to require that any school receiving federal funding launch a full investigation into every allegation of sexual assault. Any outcry was given serious consideration.

That sounds like a great plan, but anyone accused of sexual assault became subject to a “preponderance of evidence” rather than proving innocence “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof lay with the accused. Unfortunately, the standard of proof does not allow for due process; it instead increases the likelihood that someone will be found guilty.

Upcoming changes in reporting sexual assaults 

Current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants the way in which sexual assaults are handled to be fair to both the victim and the alleged perpetrator. Her critics fear that this approach will allow aggressors to avoid prosecution.

People who commit sexual assault could get a pass and never face the consequences for their behavior.

How colleges and universities should change how they handle sexual assaults

Sexual assault is more than casual, consensual sex after a drink or two. It’s the sexual intrusion that occurs even when one partner refuses to give explicit consent.

Sexual assault includes:

  • Unwanted sexual touching and groping
  • Forcing sexual acts on another person
  • Rape

Schools must change how they handle sexual assaults.

Colleges and universities must establish a precise definition of sexual assault, and they must also outline the consequences of this behavior. The school’s responsibilities do not stop there. They must develop the courage to abide by their policies and procedures.

Also, schools must have the latitude needed to go after rapists and other perpetrators of sexual assault, and they have to be willing to pursue charges.

Sexual assault cannot be allowed to continue. Universities have it within their power to stop it on their campuses.

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