A quick review of why and how to find out about the rape crisis center on your campus. Have a look…
By M. Lynette DiPalma
Campus rape is a topic that has been getting wide exposure over the last few years. Because of some extremely high-profile cases, there have been some changes made to the laws that govern college and university policies to handle such a crisis. Not only are colleges and universities required by federal law to have some kind of sexual assault policy on record, but it is also mandatory for institutions to make this information widely available to the campus community and public at large.
The most important element that has been changed fairly recently, is that the law now requires that the college or university to apply disciplinary action against the perpetrator of the crime, that is completely separate and non-dependent on the legal procedures, if the victim chooses to report the crime to the police. If this option is taken, then the perpetrator can be expelled if he is found guilty by a board assigned to hear the victim’s testimony. This punishment is in addition to, but not mutually exclusive, of the legal decisions made by the city or county police.
Besides some basic elements that are required by federal law, colleges and universities are free to design their own policies as they see fit. Because of this freedom, the policies can vary widely from university to university, and are mostly structured to legally protect the institution from potential lawsuits from both the perpetrator and the victim. Again, it is thanks to some of the recent high-profile cases that many campuses have experienced an increase in petitions, campus activities, and protests insisting that the institution develop new, fair policies, or to change the policies currently in place.
It is an unfortunate truth that, even though an institution may have a fair policy on rape, these policies may not always be properly enforced. It is the student’s job to seek out information to learn about their institution’s policies. The best avenue to learn about this would be to contact the local rape crisis center, hotline, or victim advocacy organization, to learn what kind of experiences they have had when dealing with a campus rape situation.
A student or potential student should check to find out if there is an on-campus sexual assault center. If so, is it run by the campus, a mental health organization, police, or by students? Hours and on-call organization should be clearly stated and consistent as well. Confidentiality is of the utmost concern for many victims, so the policies of the center should be explored as well. Knowing whether or not the individuals who work with the victims of rape on campus are actual service providers for the crisis center or simply individuals in an administrative position with the college of university is also important. Administrators would be far more likely to have the institution’s interest as a top priority, as opposed to ensuring justice for the victim.
Beyond knowing the options available in case of emergency, students must remember that the majority of campus rapes occur between people who know each other. The psychological damage that can occur when a victim is subjected to seeing their rapist on a daily basis within the campus community can be quite debilitating. It is because of this that it is so important that students are aware of the policies that are in place at their institution, as well as the options available to help, should such a crime occur.