Survivors of Sexual Assault Should Explore Their Options

MAGGIE MONSON | Columnist

Sexual violence is one of the most serious problems facing college campuses right now. Nearly one in five women and one in 71 men report being raped at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This number is one in three for college-aged women.

Stalking, sexual harassment, assault and rape are the most prevalent forms of campus sexual violence according to Joetta Carr’s 2005 article titled “Campus Sexual Violence.” It can happen to both men and women and occur frequently on college campuses.

Conversations about sexual violence have increased over time. It’s an important topic to discuss. The university needs to address the survivors’ safety and even the basic definition of sexual violence.

All colleges could do more to prevent or respond to sexual violence. There is no correct way to handle these situations, but many schools struggle handle it well.

Specifically regarding sexual assault and rape, in my opinion, many universities perpetuate the rape culture that exists in society today through the way they question the survivors.

Rape culture is the way society treats rape as casual or a joke—the way society willingly believes myths about rape, the way society shames survivors into silence.

There is not enough space here to discuss all of the facets of rape culture. I recommend all students who do not understand this concept do more research about it. This is a very real problem.

Another part of rape culture is victim-blaming. This occurs when people ask questions such as, “What was she wearing?” or, “How much did he have to drink?”

It’s important to note that rape is never the survivor’s fault. Some programs fail to address this fact, however.

“Sexual violence prevention programs…maintain a limited focus. Few studies…have documented actual attitude changes,” according to Carr’s article.

Butler University is working to improve its awareness of sexual violence.

President James Danko recently announced his plan to create a presidential commission to “develop a plan to stop sexual violence at our university,” according to an April 16 email.

Many conversations have branched off from this at about rape and the university’s role in investigating crimes.

We seem to be surprised that Butler struggles to handle sexual assault and rape cases in an effective way.

Butler did not create rape culture. This is pervasive throughout our society.

I’m glad Butler students are having these conversations to hold the university accountable for improvement. It’s important to communicate to meet survivors’ needs and work for a better system.

It will be a long time before universities learn to stop blaming the victims.

Society at-large tends to victim-blame because it is easier to say a rape occurred because a woman was drunk than analyze the deeper, societal causes of rape.

It will be an even longer time before universities are able to provide a survivor with all the resources, communication and solutions he or she deserves.

For this reason, if you are assaulted on campus, do not go straight to the university.

If you choose to take legal action, or think you may want to in the future, call the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. At the end of the day, there is only so much Butler can do.

When a student reports a rape to Butler University, the Equity Grievance Panel, consisting of Butler faculty members, investigates the claim.

The decision of whether to hold a hearing based on the evidence lies with the Title IX coordinator—La Veda Howell, director of human resources—according to Butler’s policy titled “Civil Rights Equity Grievance Resolution Process for Faculty, Students and Staff.”

Title IX is an amendment to a previous higher education law and helps prevent gender-based discrimination. Butler  follows Title IX guidelines for complaints of sexual misconduct. The Title IX coordinator is in charge of making sure Title IX is followed.

The burden of proof for a case continuing to a hearing is whether “it is more likely than not that the accused individual committed each alleged violation,” according to the “Civil Rights Equity Grievance Resolution Process.”

I truly believe this school does not want to harm a survivor any more than he or she has already been harmed. Title IX lays out the above procedures for Butler.

However, the school has other factors to consider.

Multiple rape cases reflect badly on the university. Reputation and prestige are bound to play a part in the university’s decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously.

I cannot say definitively what goes through the panelists’ minds when considering these cases, but the administrators’ decisions are fundamentally more complicated than just looking at the evidence.

The law has less to consider when they process rape cases. Judges and juries speak on behalf of the law, not a university’s name.

I do not give this advice out of ill will toward BUPD or Butler, but this is the reality of how colleges work.

It’s not some vast conspiracy to cover up sexual assault and rape on Butler’s campus. It’s an issue with the way society and college campuses in general treat these issues. There is a lack of transparency overall.

Taking the case directly to IMPD will not be easier or more pleasant.

Police officers are just as much a part of rape culture as universities. The officer may try to blame the survivor first, and many survivors say the investigation feels like they are being victimized all over again.

IMPD is not perfect, but the reality is that every group could stand to improve its treatment of survivors. This is a serious issue that will require policy changes and changes in thought.

Neither kind of investigation is easy. One or the other is necessary in order to press charges of any kind, however. I suggest calling IMPD in order to avoid involving the university and the unavoidable problem of its reputation.

Take time to evaluate how you would want to press charges, or if you would want to press charges, if this ever happens to you. It might be hard to imagine, but as the earlier statistics show, sexual assault and rape are prevalent.

Each student has to decide what is best for him or her after sexual assault or rape. While we can’t truly know what we will do until the situation occurs, please consider not involving the university in the investigation.

Danko’s commission to help prevent rape on campus is a good first step. Survivors of sexual assault should bring their situations to Butler in order to help constructively criticize the university’s procedures.

But the justice should be left to the legal courts.

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