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Candy Matos
English Composition 1201
Professor Richardson
April 7, 2015
Sexual Assault and Rape on College Campuses
Deciding what college to attend is a very big decision for many high school seniors
across the country. Some students narrow down their decisions based on the cost, the location,
and the graduation rate, as well as many other factors. One of my deciding factors in committing
to a college is whether or not I will feel safe on the campus. Lately, when one turns on the
television or reads the news online, theres a new story about a rape scandal on a colleges
campus. Its a scary thing to read, considering that one in four college women get raped. That
could be me next year. I then began to wonder why this might be my fate and endeavored to find
out. I opened up my computer and began my search. Wading through a universe of online
information and opinions on the subject, I finally arrived at some distinct and justifiable causes.
Lack of training, greater concern for their reputation, and mishandling of investigations are all
reasons why sexual assault and rape remain prevalent on our college campuses today.
According to Tara Culp Ressler, a health editor at ThinkProgress, a survey confirmed that
schools are failing to address sexual assault on their campus. The national survey was conducted
by Senator Claire McCaskill with hopes that it will persuade lawmakers to create a new law that
will help fix the crisis involving sexual assault on campus. The responses from the survey
indicated that from campus police to university staff, few people are doing enough to ensure
that rape allegations are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly (Culp-Ressler, Tara). Out

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of the 200 schools that participated, the survey confirmed that a third of the schools dont
provide any sort of training for sexual assault to their students and only 20% of the schools dont
provide any type of training for their staff and faculty to teach them how to respond to students
who disclose their rape. Even more shocking is that more than 40 percent of the surveyed
schools said they havent conducted a single sexual assault investigation within the past five
years (Culp-Ressler, Tara). As for the people who oversee sexual assault cases, 30% of the
schools responded that they havent trained them on common rape myths. In order to fix the
prevalent rape crisis on campuses, colleges should inform and train their school from the faculty
and staff, to the students and local law enforcement on how to respond to rape and sexual assault.

Fig. 1 The picture shows students at Dickinson College protesting in order to encourage their
school to handle their sexual assaults and rapes allegations and investigations accordingly.
(Dickenson Protest)
Colleges have another purpose for not adjudicating rape. They put their reputation above
the rights of the students who have been victimized by rape. Nina Burleigh, an investigative

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journalist for Rolling Stone, discusses the story of Laura Dunn, a Midwestern preachers
daughter who lived life abstinence. Dunn was raped after drinking a few too many vodka shots at
a fraternity party. She recalls her two classmates leading her to their apartment after the party, in
which they proceeded to rape her. Dunn reported her alleged rape a year later after she learned in
her pre-law class that girls who have been raped on campus had the option of reporting the
incident to the dean. Dunn walked out of that class and straight to the dean, initiating a process
that took two years. By the time the university finished its investigation, one of the perpetrators
had graduated, and the one still on campus was never punished because it found that since
everyone involved had been drinking, consent could not be determined. The police never brought
charges (Burleigh, Nina 46).
Another student who had a bad experience with how her school responded to her rape
was Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University. Sulkowicz, known as Mattress Girl
(for carrying her 50 pound mattress around with her to symbolize the burden she carries from her
alleged rape), previously had consensual sex with her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser on several
occasions. On the third occasion, however, Sulkowicz claimed that Nungesser choked and hit her
before anally penetrating her as she cried and screamed. Sulkowicz reported the incident to the
university but Nungesser was exonerated after an investigation and hearing although Nungesser
was also linked to two other rapes. Sulkowicz sat down for an interview with Katie Van Syckle, a
freelance journalist who covers the arts and culture in her articles, to discuss the aftermath of the
shoddy investigation she endured. Emma discusses how the mattress is a burden, because of
what has happened there, how it has turned her own relationship with her bed into something
fraught (Van Syckle, Katie). Sulkowicz also discusses how she plans on carrying her mattress
around campus until either she graduates, or her alleged rapist gets expelled but she realizes that

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the university is so stubborn that it may never happen and she may be carrying that mattress for
a while (Van Syckle, Katie). A college trying a rape case is a process that on average, takes a
year. Now, Columbia University has made it even harder to try a serial rapist (as Sulkowicz
describes Nungesser) by implementing a new policy in which each case will be treated
separately until the first one has closed. (Van Syckle, Katie). If one person rapes three girls in
one night, those girls wont be able to testify at each others cases, the way it used to be. Making
it harder to try a rapist, let alone, a serial rapist, is an example of how colleges are mishandling
rape investigations. In this case, it is by unnecessarily making the process longer than it has to
be.
Audrey Logan, a student at Occidental College, also suffered through a shoddy trial as
did Dunn and Sulkowicz. Michelle Goldberg, an author and senior contributing writer for The
Nation, wrote an article published by The Nation describing other college students experience
with campus on rape, Logan being one of them. Logans experience was another example of how
colleges are mishandling their rape cases, often by dismissing the investigation, but in this case,
by lacking professionalism. Logan describes going to the dean of student lifes office to give a
statement of her alleged rape. Logan discussed how the deans recorder was broken and she
instead took notes. Later, the dean produced a document that was missing important information
from her statement (Goldberg, Michelle 12). When the hearing was made with the schools
panel, Logans alleged rapist appeared in the hearing via Skype. Logan recalls the hearing as a
really re-victimizing experienceher alleged rapist would direct questions to her, and she
would wait as the board decided whether they were relevant and she had to answer them
(Goldberg, Michelle 12). To make matters worse, during one of the hearings break, Logan could
hear members of the panel chatting amicably with her alleged attacker about his studies and

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how the weather was where he was staying. Logan stated, How do you come into a room where
everyone is laughing with your rapist? (Goldberg, Michelle 13). Although there was a lack of
professionalism in the hearing, Logans alleged rapist was found responsible, which led to his
expulsion. Logan is one of the few victims of rape that was able to have justice resulting from
her sexual assault.
While the reasons for continued campus assault are still valid, it must acknowledged that
politicians, health editors, and investigative journalist alike are working toward bringing these
reasons to the forefront in an effort to affect change. Joseph Shapiro, a news investigative
correspondent focusing on college life, wrote an article stating that the Department of Education
(DOE) tries to clarify issues that college administrations say have caused confusion, and often
left victims of sexual violence feel like they got little protection. In regards to clarify what
colleges are to do, the DOE wrote a letter to school administrators stating that if it's more than
likely that sexual violence occurred, there should be punishment When a woman brings a
complaint that she was a victim of assault, a school cannot punish her for using alcohol or drugs
(some women have said that when they went to a colleges administration to report their sexual
assault, they end up getting punished for breaking the schools policy of drinking or using drugs),
schools must also fully inform a person who brings a complaint of her or his (men are victims in
about 6 percent of sexual assault cases, according to federal officials) rights to an investigation
and then they must be told the outcome of the investigation. Some schools thought they could
not tell the victim the result of an investigation because it would violate the privacy of the
alleged perpetrator (Shapiro, Joseph). Other things the DOE included in their letter to college
administrations was how schools are to investigate alleged sexual assaults on off campus
housing. Besides lack of knowledge and training, another big concern from the DOE is how

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colleges arent handling their investigations in a timely manner. Some schools told women they
could not get involved until after local police completed a criminal investigation. That often left
a woman on campus and even in the same dormitory or classrooms with the man she said
had assaulted her (Shapiro, Joseph). With the help of the DOE, colleges can move forward and
properly handle their sexual assault and rape cases on their campuses.
If colleges dont comply with the laws made for them to protect their students on campus
(protection from sexual assault included), they could be fined. In an article written by Laura
Sullivan, an investigative journalist specializing in writing about the countrys disadvantaged
people, she discusses how senators are trying to create a bill meant to change the way colleges
handle sexual assault investigations. The bill aims to hold schools accountable for how they
handle sexual assault allegations, by requiring colleges to investigate all possible incidents, to
provide advocates for victims, and to conduct and make public the results of annual student
surveys (Sullivan, Laura). One of the bills co-sponsor, Senator Richard Blumenthal, stated how
he wants schools to be done with the days of asking victims why they drank too much or wore
the wrong thing or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy (Sullivan, Laura). If
the schools were to fail to comply with the bill, they could be fined up to 1% of its operating
budget, which could be millions of dollars for some colleges. The letter from the Department of
Education and the new bills to come in effect are some of the different ways that are pressuring
colleges to handle their rape and sexual assault investigations more accordingly.
New bills arent the only way to try to prevent colleges from mishandling their sexual
assault cases. In an article written by Tierney Sneed, a culture and social issues reporter, it is
discussed how there is a new proposal that could change the way that colleges handle their
investigations. The proposal would set up an independent organization funded and shared by

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schools in a geographic area, akin to a consortium of universities that shares everything from
library books to teaching staff (Sneed, Tierney). The colleges in that area would fund the team
of experts who are fully trained in investigating sexual assault on campus. Colleges are pushed
not to find rape. It can hurt their reputation who wants to be known as 'Rape U'? ... But a
consortium wouldn't be pushed in any way at all. They dont have donors or basketball teams
The independent organization could remove bias (Sneed, Tierney). As stated previously,
universities and colleges have a lack of training when it comes to sexual assault. An independent
organization would be a great solution in regards to solving sexual assault cases and the handling
of investigations because they would be trained, theyre not directly associated with a certain
school, and the independent organization would eliminate bias.
Tara Culp-Ressler is another person working toward making a difference. She has proven
that are some schools are indeed taking steps to prevent sexual assault on their campus. Doane
College students are now able to anonymously text their campus safety officers if they see a
situation in which they feel could lead to something dangerous. Other schools such as Elon,
George Washington, Rutgers, Saint Marys, UC Berkely, and Stanford University are having
mandatory orientation courses for their students to be aware of sexual assault and related terms.
Schools such as Indiana University and University of Virginia are taking a stand by posting over
6,000 posters around campus in hopes of raising awareness on sexual assault and by creating a
new bystander intervention program to encourage and teach students on how to intervene if they
see a potentially dangerous situation (Culp-Ressler, Tara).
Although some schools are taking a stand to prevent sexual assault, the situation still
remains when schools lack training, focus on their reputation more than justice, and mishandle
investigations. With new bills being made and new proposals being conducted, the way that

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colleges handle sexual assault cases could change in the future. If colleges were to train their
faculty and educate their students on rape culture, rape accusations and investigations would be
taken more seriously. I think if an independent organization was created for handling sexual
assault cases on campuses across the country, then rape allegations would also be taken more
seriously and rape culture on college campuses would gradually lessen. Maybe with these
suggestions in place, other girls like me will rest easier at night, knowing that preventative
measures for safety are being taken and that our greatest worry is nothing more than tomorrows
math exam.

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Works Cited
Burleigh, Nina. "Confronting Campus Rape." Rolling Stone 19 June 2014: 46. Sinclair OhioNet.
Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Culp-Ressler, Tara. "11 Schools Taking Real Steps To Start Fixing The College Rape
Crisis." ThinkProgress RSS. Think Progress, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.
Culp-Ressler, Tara. "Survey Confirms Colleges Are Failing To Address Sexual Assault At Every
Level." ThinkProgress RSS. Think Progress, 10 July 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
Goldberg, Michelle. "Campus Rape Crisis." Nation 23 June 2014: 12-16.Sinclair OhioNet. Web.
25 Mar. 2015.
Kleeman, Sophie. Dickinson Protest. N.d. NYU Local. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.
<http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2014/05/06/federal-investigations-bring-attention-tocampus-sexual-assault-problem/attachment/dickinson-protest-64397f020a25fc07/>.
"Sexual Assault / Rape." Women' S Law. National Network to End Domestic Violence, 21 June
2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.
Shapiro, Joseph. "Colleges, Universities Told To Do More To Prevent Sexual Assaults." NPR.
NPR, 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Sneed, Tierney. "Is This the Solution to the Campus Rape Conundrum?" USNews. US News, 16
Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
Sulkowicz, Emma. "The Columbia Student Carrying a Mattress Everywhere Says Reporters Are
Triggering Rape Memories." Interview by Katie Van Syckle. NYMag 4 Sept. 2014: n.
pag. NYMag. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.

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Sullivan, Laura. "Senate Bill Would Fine Colleges For Mismanaging Campus Rape
Cases." NPR. NPR, 30 July 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015.