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Campus Sexual Assault Prevention

Currently, I am a full time student at Southern New Hampshire University and I'll be graduating next Spring with a degree in Criminology. One of the great things I get to experience being an online student is the interaction I have with my classmates, who are from all walks of life and live in all corners of the country. It's pretty interesting to take a course with a student in Alaska while I'm here in tiny old Rhode Island.

Throughout my interactions with other students who know that I am a survivor advocate and educator, it has often been disclosed during discussions about something occurring to them on a previous campus involving some type of sexual assault or violence, and the bad experience they had with campus administrators or other students. These stories are terrible to hear, but what hurts the most are the stories from students who are now taking online courses because they were too scared to return to their previous campus because of their alleged perpetrator still being allowed on the same campus, basically forcing the victim to interact with their assailant. In what world is this ok? This is just another form of blatant victim blaming and the continuation of shaming the victim into silence. This practice inevitably pushes the victim back into the shadows and they are left to deal with the emotional fallout from their victimization.

Recently, for one of the requirements for a sociology course, I looked into the prevalence of sexual violence on college/university campuses around the country and what I found was staggering. About 23% of the female student body of any given campus around the country have been the victim of some type of sexual violence, most specifically rape and sexual assault. In addition, many colleges do not have procedures and protocols for when students report that they have been the victim of one of these crimes. The colleges/universities that do have some type of protocol have procedures where alleged victims are put through "student conduct hearings" after "investigations" completed by their peers, who are in no way capable of a thorough criminal investigation. Obviously colleges or universities are not judicial institutions that can declare someone guilty or not guilty, but their idea of "punishment" for the alleged perpetrator is usually something that is the equivalent of academic probation. They arrive at these conclusions that "no wrongdoing" has occurred because of lack of evidence; what these institutions fail to understand is that rape or sexual assault often do not leave evidence in the form of physical injuries and that any damage the victim may face will all be internal. The lack of cuts and/or bruises does not constitute a conclusion of no crime having occurred.

So, what can be done to combat this issue? The answer: education, education, education. I realize that sounds redundant given the fact that these are institutions of higher learning, but there simply is not enough education for students to understand and comprehend the factors that surround the crimes of sexual violence and what circumstances identify them as such. Students also need to know how to intervene in a situation where sexual violence may be occurring. After that, its time to educate school administrators on the same things and help them develop ethical protocols and procedures to help student victims (I'm attaching a link to more detailed explanation of The Warrior Network's official position regarding the research on this subject). Once these suggestions are implemented, only then will we see the instances of sexual violence on college campuses decrease.

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