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One in four female college seniors experience a sexual assault

When parents send their kids off to college, they expect the college to assume responsibility for a safe campus. To that extent, the college becomes loco in parentis. A lot of colleges take that responsibility seriously. And a lot of them just take the parents’ check.
Last week the Association of American Universities released its survey of sexual violence on campus. This study—one of the largest ever undertaken— found that one in four female college seniors had experienced a sexual assault. Almost 75 percent of them did not report the assault for fear that they wouldn’t taken seriously by authorities, and they might even be blamed for their own victimization.
How did this state of affairs come about? Rape is not a minor crime like having your bicycle or your laptop stolen. Yet there are still plenty of colleges where a student accused of cheating is more likely to be expelled for bringing dishonor to a school than one accused of rape. When colleges fail to take strong action against rapists on campus, they ensure that more rapes will follow, since campus rapists almost invariably turn out to be serial rapists. In this regard, the college administrators are contributing to an unsafe environment.
Rape has far reaching implications for the victim. Her quality of life may change dramatically. She has been traumatized, so she may find it hard to leave her room. Maybe she has chronic insomnia. Maybe she starts drinking heavily or using drugs to blot out the flashbacks. Maybe her grades fall. Maybe she drops out of school. For a long time she may find it difficult to trust men.
Whatever changes she might undergo, one thing is certain: a rape victim never sees the world the same way again. Her life has been altered, not by her own agency but by the man or men who violated her. And when college administrators refuse to expel her rapist/s, they contribute another layer to this horrifyingly different experience of the world. As well as feeling unsafe, now the victim feels alone, betrayed by those she trusted to find justice for her. The perception she is living in a world where the innocent are punished, and the guilty walk free, may lead to despair, self-harm, and worse. This is a far cry from the education her parents had in mind for their daughter when they signed the first tuition check.
Rape is a hate crime, and it should be prosecuted as such by college administrations. Just as a lynching would not be tolerated, neither should a rape be shrugged off. Rape is not the product of sexual desire. Rape is the product of a sense of male entitlement and a lack of respect for women. Rape is brutal and since it is intended to cause suffering. As such, it is sadistic.
It is a grave error for college administrators to minimize rape as hi-jinks that got out of hand, or an alcohol fuelled misunderstanding where No was read as Yes. Rape is a serious crime, prohibited by law. It is not a minor crime like being caught with a small amount of marijuana in your possession, so why do some colleges persist in treating it as such?

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Stig Larsson and the U.S. Congress

In 2009 President Obama declared a National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Sexual assault is pervasive in the United States,” stated the President. “One recent study found that 18 per cent of women in this country have been raped in their lifetimes.” Barack Obama issued a rallying cry. “ I urge all Americans to respond to sexual assault by creating policies at work and school, by engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by making the prevention of sexual assault a priority in their communities.”
Well, he did his best. Did it become a priority in most communities? Nope. Did it become a priority for state governments? Hardly. The President’s call to action pretty much fizzled, while statistics for sexual assault continued to rise. Does this nationwide indifference  encourage rapists to believe no one takes attacks on females seriously? Of course. How could it not?
Several years ago TV journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell declared that there was a “war on women.”’ She’s right. With nearly one in five women in the USA having experienced at least one rape, that’s a useful way to look at it. After all, Congress has a history of funding wars with taxpayers’ money. Now, imagine if Congress became just as committed to fighting the “war against women. ” Imagine if from middle school on, all females received training in how to escape dangerous individuals and situations.
Schools are mandated to instruct students —female and male—on what to do if a gunman is loose on school premises. So, ironically,  girls learn how to protect themselves against a mass killer— it is unlikely they will have to use these skills, but better safe than sorry! —but they don’t learn how to fight off a sexual assault. Although twenty percent of them will face that situation one day!
As well as training girls how to deal with dangerous individuals and unsafe situations, schools should be training boys as well. Not just how to lead other students to safety when a gunman roams the halls—although that is laudable— but how to stop a rape, and ensure the victim’s safety. There are a lot of boys who would welcome that training.
Stig Larsson was once a boy like that. As a teenager, he witnessed a gang rape. He felt powerless. He didn’t know what to do. His failure to act haunted him for years. As a result he created the character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. From a young age, Salander trained herself how to defeat any man who attempted to hurt her. The author said through his protagonist’s example he wanted to empower girls to be able to fight back effectively.
Wouldn’t it be something if Congress saw the same need, and actually did something about it?

Those untested rape kits

In Detroit, vast quantities of untested rape kits were discovered in an abandoned police warehouse in 2009. There were 11,000 of them. Since then, it has transpired that this systematic failure to test rape kits is not limited to Detroit. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits across this country have also never been tested —despite the fact that in 2004 Congress passed the Debbie Smith act to reduce the backlog of rape kits. Where did the funding go? Often it was spent on other things, like improving laboratories. It certainly didn’t go where it was intended: to achieve justice for victims or keep rapists off the streets. The lack of federal oversight, and the absence of a serious commitment amongst the states which received the funding is obvious once you start looking at the numbers. For instance, 5231 rape kits were collected in Las Vegas, between 2004 and 2014 but only 846 were actually sent to a lab for testing. In Seattle, 1641 rape kits were gathered between 2004 and 2014, but only 365 were ever tested for DNA.
As a result of the failure to test those hundreds of thousands of rape kits, the criminals themselves remained free to victimize other women and girls. For example, since state officials in Detroit began processing the untested rape kits in 2009, about 100 serial rapists have been identified and charged. One hundred serial rapists —probably more—in one city alone .
The issue of untested rape kits is upsetting in itself, but it points to a broader problem. Are the neglected rape kits a byproduct of a refusal to treat violence against women seriously? Is there today a widespread acceptance of sexual violence towards women and girls as an inevitable—albeit regrettable— fact of life?
According to government figures, one in five females has experienced a rape or attempted rape, Over half of the country— fifty one percent of Americans— is female. So why isn’t reducing sexual violence the number one priority in the corridors of power? In fact, is it a priority at all? Members of both political parties have never joined together to declare a War on Sexual Violence, as they did with the ill-fated War on Drugs. Politicians don’t even bother addressing the issue of sexual violence on the campaign trail (where it’s common practice to make promises that are discarded after winning office). It’s because ending sexual violence against women isn’t a priority for the majority of politicians—it isn’t even an issue!
And that’s what those hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are telling us.