Campus Rape Reporting
Now, there are a lot of reasons that college is not a universal experience: the university experience is much more prevalent among the affluent, denizens of G-10 countries, white folks, etc. It is an over-discussed and over-analyzed set of experiences. But in discussing sexual assault, the university experience is one of several that throw a high concentration of young adults together in the presence of stress and alcohol — the military, in nations where women serve in large numbers, is another. So it’s worth talking about for that reason alone.
For a few years now I’ve wondered how many women are pressured into silence. I’ve heard stories anecdotally, and I feel like there’s a lot more under the surface.
One thing that stands out to me is that American universities have a motive to suppress women’s stories. They are subject to the Clery Act, which requires that they report the number of violent crimes, including rape, on campus. I can’t prove it, but my gut tells me that the Clery Act is, as lawyers sometimes say, “honored in the breach,” that underreporting is systematic and routine. It’s not as if nobody pays attention to it: Security On Campus seems to deal almost exclusively with Clery Act compliance. But the fine for failure to report is only $27,500, so the penalties for nonreporting are not stiff enough to deter, in my view, a school from trying to dissuade survivors from reporting. And the numbers just seem so low. To unfairly single out a school, at Penn State’s University Park campus, the Clery Act reports show an average of about 8 forcible rapes, and not a single non-forcible sexual assault, for 2005/6/7. Does anybody believe that’s the number of rapes on campus there? That that’s the number reported to rape crisis services? Obviously, it’s artificially low, reflecting massive underreporting. And I’m not trying to single out Penn State here, I just needed an example.
I don’t believe any rape survivor owes it to anyone else to report. Some of the underreporting has to do with cultural forces far beyond the University. But given universities’ reporting obligation, I wonder if women are encountering patterns and practices that dissuade them from making complaints to campus police.
What are your experiences? Anybody know anything?
Crossposted at Feministing Community