Thursday, February 4, 2010

The good, the bad, and the ugly: campus SA policies

Most of us are all too familiar with the hot mess that is college sexual assault policies. Unfortunately, colleges like to pretend rape and sexual assault don't happen on their campuses. If they do happen, it is supposedly when strangers in the bushes jump out and break into your unlocked dorm, or assault you as you are jogging and are wearing an iPod and headphones.

Thanks. Not realistic, and not appreciated. Colleges appear to routinely ignore:

a) USDOJ's report The Sexual Victimization of College Women, which is extremely reader-friendly and should probably be required reading for all campus feminists, and

b) the Clery Act [scroll halfway down the page linked]. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires all colleges and universities to collect and publish campus crime statistics annually. If you believe some of the reports coming from campuses, only a couple students get assaulted each year. Tip: feminist parents can use this US Dept of Ed website to compare college crime statistics, for what it's worth.

Colleges effectively discourage crime reporting, forcing survivors to wade through layers of bureaucracy, go across town for a rape kit, and recount their experience to multiple offices. Awesome. So campuses then shrug and pretend the low numbers of reported crime reflect reality. This underscores the importance of having an assault policy that supports survivors with full-time, staff advocates on campus, and encourages reporting and prosecution of students found guilty of violent crimes.

USDOJ disperses
grants to colleges fighting gender-based violence. If your college isn't yet a recipient, definitely apply ASAP. Letters of intent to apply for this year's fall grant are due WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17 so work with campus staff and administrators and submit a letter!

Below are some choice examples of strong and pitiful SA policies.

The Good

Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has a great online, anonymous, sexual violence reporting form. Kudos to the Women's Center for providing this service. Every campus should have one. If yours doesn't, collaborate with your Women's Center and campus administration to create one immediately.

The Bad

CUNY Hunter College in New York has a sexual assault policy in place that's ok. The fab Hunter Women's Coalition is working with the City University of New York administrators to install a CUNY-wide sexual assault policy that applies to all of the campuses, as currently some campuses have a policy and others have none at all.

one page on the Hunter Public Safety website titled "Steps to follow if you become a victim of rape." You know, should a rape suddenly materialize out of thin air. Colleges everywhere like to strategically employ the passive voice in their SA materials, to pretend like there is no perpetrator, much less a perp who is a fellow student there. Try instead, "Steps to follow if somebody rapes you."

The Ugly

Valdosta State University in Georgia has really wonderful feminists, and seriously slut-shaming "sexual assault prevention" tips on the VSU Public Safety site. I was hoping it was a cruel joke by some misogynist student.
But no, some overpaid misogynist at Valdosta took the time to post 13 sage tips just asking to be excoriated by the feminist community (and general public, for that matter). If I ever visit, I'll be sure not to pack my mini skirt, my uncovered drinks, my dancing shoes, and my Come Hither t-shirt.

Colleges figure they can wait out any indignant students impertinent to try to change the SA policy, so be sure to be in it for the long haul. Good luck, and let us know if we can support you in any way.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

For more on campus sexual assault policies, folks should check out SAFER (students active for ending rape). They have a database of campus sexual assault policies and work with students to reform bad ones!