Sexual violence is getting more and more attention on our college campuses. Several national initiatives are underway, including the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault and the It’s On Us campaign, to change cultural norms and engage campus communities in prevention.
Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to report all campus crimes to law enforcement authorities; schools must publish an annual security report, maintain a public crime log, release crime statistics, issue timely alerts about crime, implement an emergency response plan, and have procedures for handling missing person cases.
When it comes to sexual assault, most cases are handled through a campus-based adjudication system where offenders are not held legally accountable. And, according to the US Senate Subcommittee’s 2014 Survey Report, 40% of colleges and universities reported not having investigated a single sexual assault case in the past five years.
Unfortunately, the current system of due process set in place puts an enormous amount of pressure upon victims who do report, with multiple hearings that in many cases re-traumatize the victims. More college students have begun to speak out against the flawed system, such as Emma Sulkowicz, who as a performance art piece called “Carry That Weight” drags her mattress with her everywhere she goes to symbolize the burden she bears everyday knowing her rapist is still on campus. Senator Kristen Gillibrand reflects on the time spent with Sulkowicz at the recent State of the Union Address:
The fact is, these courageous women and men who, like Emma, are speaking out about their assaults should not have to share the most horrific experiences of their lives publicly in order to get the attention of their schools and their government. That shouldn’t be on them.
Day One is advocating for a new system here in Rhode Island that prioritizes the wants and needs of the victim. While both the college/university and law enforcement work together to investigate the case, the victim is provided a safe environment to evaluate their options with a professionally trained sexual assault advocate. Though this new system does not yet universally exist, it has been proven successful in terms of increased reporting by a similarly modeled system in Ashland, Oregon called You Have Options.
As part of the You Have Options program, victims can remain anonymous but still provide a documented report of the incident and are not required to report to law enforcement in person. Instead, they are allowed to have a sexual assault advocate report on their behalf. The victim also maintains control over when the initial report is made and is not pressured to participate in a criminal investigation. The goals of this victim-based system are to:
- Increase sexual assault reporting by eliminating as many barriers to reporting as possible
- Increase identification and prosecution of perpetrators
- Decrease sexual assault victimization
In Rhode Island there is a high concentration of colleges, making campus sexual assault a priority for our community. Day One has been proactively meeting with colleges and universities across the state to develop an approach for handling these cases. We recently finalized an MOU with Roger Williams University, the first of its kind in the state. To further our efforts in the Rhode Island community, we are having our annual 5k in April. Register today at dayone5k.com!
For more information on sexual violence and the resources available, go to dayoneri.org.