YWM: Sexual Assault on College and University Campuses news for younger women
December 2010

Three years ago we started working on the issue of sexual assault in DC after finding out about this case, where a young woman was denied a rape kit not just by one university hospital, but by two. After researching federal legislation and learning about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Forensic Compliance 2005 Reauthorization (42 USCA S. 3796gg-4.b.3.D.d.1), which went into effect in January 2009, we created Stand Up For DC Women, a program to educate the DC community about the legal rights of sexual assault survivors under the Forensic Compliance. Under this legislation, sexual assault victims have a right to a free rape kit regardless of whether he/she participates in the criminal justice system or cooperates with law enforcement.

Our work led us to develop a partnership with Megan Evans, a Medical Student and member of the Sexual Violence Awareness Group at The George Washington University School of Medicine. From November 2009 to January 2010, we worked with Megan to send out 5,097 surveys to GWU graduate and undergraduate students in order to understand if students know reporting procedures following a sexual assault, and to assess students' knowledge of resources available to victims of sexual assault both at the GWU Hospital and on the GWU campus. We hypothesized that GWU students did not know how to report a sexual assault or even what resources were available to them. It is clear from our findings that GWU, like many other universities, has failed at educating their students about sexual assault.

In DC, sexual assault survivors are guaranteed a free rape kit at Washington Hospital Center, which is the only hospital employing Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) and, therefore, the only hospital with rape kits on site. Because there are no SANEs at the GWU Hospital or in GWU's Student Health Services, students who have been sexually assaulted must go to Washington Hospital Center to receive a rape kit and a comprehensive sexual assault analysis.

An alarming 89% of students who completed our survey believe SANEs are available to perform rape kits at GWU Hospital and 62% of students responding think rape kits are available on GWU's campus through student health services.

Sexual assault on college campuses is a serious problem. The Department of Justice estimates that one in four college students will be raped before they graduate. Further, many stay silent about their rapes. The Center for Public Integrity found students often stay quite after a rape because they blame themselves, they didn't realize that what happened to them is a crime, or they fear revictimization. Due to all of these factors it is imperative that schools take the necessary steps to protect their students by implementing sexual assault prevention programs and polices and procedures that protect sexual assault survivors from crisis to recovery.

This issue of YWM explores the problem of sexual assault on college campuses across the U.S. Find out about the key findings of our research, download the complete report, which includes promising practices, read about other cases, and learn about the new SaVe legislation that would address sexual assault on college campuses. Please note that some of the articles and information maybe be triggering.

If you feel inspired to start looking at your own campus sexual assault policies and procedures take the SAFER Winter Break Challenge. They also have a wealth of resources and materials to help get you get started.

Sincerely, The Leaders of YWTF

In this issue
  • Key Findings
  • Silence and Sexual Assault on College Campuses
  • Student Commits Suicide After Sexual Assault by Notre Dame Football Player
  • Administration, Congress Take Critical Steps Towards Combating Sexual Assualt on College Campuses
  • Many Campus Assault Victims Stay Quiet, or Fail to Get Help

  • Silence and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

    From Ms. Magazine Blog

    Last spring I was hired by Drake University to provide recommendations about their campus sexual assault prevention and response policies. Today I face a moral dilemma.

    In August 2010, Drake University student Anthony Bertolone was charged with third-degree felony sexual abuse for assaulting a Sigma Chi fraternity brother. According to police reports, the victim was not fully conscious during the assaults (he claims he was drugged). Discovery of the sexual assault occurred only when the alleged victim came across stills and video on Bertolone's own computer. Bertolone was kicked out of his frat but remained enrolled as a student until his recent suspension.

    I considered writing about the alleged assault in August but decided against it. I didn't want to jeopardize professional and personal relations with the Drake community. Nor did I want to detract from criminal and campus procedures by calling out what could have been done to prevent it and diverting attention from the actual crime.

    Now it looks like Bertolone may have sexually assaulted another victim.

    Student Commits Suicide After Sexual Assault by Notre Dame Football Player

    From Change.org

    It's no secret that sexual assault on campus is an epidemic, and that universities are doing little to protect women on their campuses. The suicide of Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg this fall highlights just how low a priority sexual assault really is.

    Nineteen-year-old Lizzy Seeberg reported to the Notre Dame University police that she had been sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player on August 31. According to the Chicago Tribune, she began to fear that "people would dislike her for accusing a Notre Dame athlete of a sex crime and that she would wear the incident 'like a scarlet letter' throughout her college career." To maintain normalcy, she participated in a tailgate (reminds me of the cheerleader who had to cheer for her rapist). Nine days after the attack, Seeberg committed suicide by taking a lethal quantity of Effexor, an anti-depressant.

    Three months after the incident, Notre Dame is not publicly acknowledging the case or what actions the university has taken. Not only are they unhelpful and lacking in remorse, but as the Tribune noted, they seem to have hindered the case by failing to report the sexual attack to the police department investigating Seeberg's death and by neglecting to "refer the case to the county's special victims unit, which was established to handle sex offenses."

    Administration, Congress Take Critical Steps Towards Combating Sexual Assualt on College Campuses

    From Legal Momentum

    Sexual violence has long been a major problem on college campuses across the U.S. It is now finally receiving the attention it so desperately deserves. Joseph Shapiro of National Public Radio reports, "The United States Department of Education is announcing 'voluntary resolution agreements' with two schools that had been criticized for the way they'd handled assaults. And new legislation in Congress would expand and clarify the responsibility of colleges and universities."

    A U.S. Department of Justice funded study estimates that one out of five college women will be sexually assaulted, usually when alcohol is involved. Last winter, Shapiro, along with other journalists from the Center for Public Integrity, investigated the failure of schools and the government agency that oversees them to adequately address sexual assault on their campuses in a series called "Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes."

    The cases that prompted the investigation occurred at Eastern Michigan University and Notre Dame College of Ohio. In December 2006, 22-year-old Laura Dickinson was raped and murdered by a stranger and fellow Eastern Michigan University student after he broke into her dorm room. The convicted man had already been arrested for break-ins on campus and kicked out of school dorms, yet was allowed to remain a student. For 10 weeks, campus officials led Dickinson's family to believe she died from natural causes.

    The second incident occurred in 2006 at Notre Dame of Ohio, when two students told the dean of students that they had been sexually assaulted by the same man. It took weeks for the assaults to be reported to the police, because the dean said she was asked by the women to keep the information confidential. The dean was eventually indicted but later acquitted of failing to quickly notify law enforcement authorities.

    Under the federal Clery Act, schools have an obligation to warn other students of crimes on campus. Under Title IX, schools must act swiftly and effectively to end and prevent sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

    Many Campus Assault Victims Stay Quiet, or Fail to Get Help

    From ABC

    As college students gear up once again to taste the sweet freedom of the college campus, there's one thing they're not likely not focusing on: the probability that one out of four female college students will be raped before receiving a diploma.

    A recent study from the Department of Justice estimated that 25 percent of college women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period, and that women between the ages of 16 to 24 will experience rape at a rate that's four times higher than the assault rate of all women.

    Such was seemingly the case of Megan Wright, a 19-year-old from New Jersey. Wright was wrapping up her freshman year in May 2006 at Dominican College, a small Catholic school in Orangeburg, N.Y., about an hour away from New York City, when she was allegedly gang raped on its campus. She committed suicide before the year ended.

    Her mother, Cindy McGrath, is suing Dominican, claiming that the college failed to conduct a proper investigation into her daughter's assault, and thereby violated Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which guarantees equal access to education.

    The lawsuit also alleges that Dominican violated the law by not accurately disclosing the number of sexual assaults reported on its campus.

    Key Findings

    Download the full pdf version of our report, Understanding Sexual Violence at a Large, Urban University, complete with recommendations for promising practices. Below are just a few of the key findings from the survey:

    A majority of male (91%) and female (86%) respondents believe SANEs are available to perform rape kits at GWU Hospital.

    61% of those students who took the survey feel sexual assault is a problem at GWU

    74% of students who took the survey do not feel the GWU community educates students about the resources available to victims of sexual assault. However, 71% of respondents feel confident that if an individual were ever raped, GWU has the resources to help from crisis to recovery.

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