How Many College Sexual Assault Investigations Have Been Suspended?

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

Yesterday, the Charlottesville, Virginia police announced that they’re suspending their investigation of the UVA fraternity rape allegations due to lack of evidence. After reviewing records and conducting 70 interviews, investigators were unable to find key witnesses or a statement that the assault occurred.

This leads to the obvious question: How many sexual assault investigations have been suspended?

I was specifically interested in the topic in the context of colleges and universities, and searched for that. I was unable to find any conclusive data, which makes sense, as I don’t think schools would be eager to give those numbers out.

The police did say they’re leaving the investigation open, and that it could resume in the future. But I’m sure there are even fewer statistics on re-opened college sexual assault cases.

 

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The Numbers Behind Stanford University’s Sexual Assault Problem

Stanford University (Stanford)

Stanford University (Stanford)

Last week, Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner was charged with raping an intoxicated and unconscious woman in January. Allen was discovered by two men, who then chased after him. The men tackled and held Allen to prevent him from escaping, while a third man called the police.

Since then, Allen has “voluntarily withdrawn” from the university (more likely, it was either that or face expulsion), and won’t be allowed to re-enroll. His profile has also been removed from the nationally-ranked swim team’s website. Stanford will also conduct its own investigation of the crime.

This is notable for a few reasons. Rapes on college campuses have made headlines recently, notably the “Rolling Stone” UVA article, and subsequent fraternity scandal. But this is the first time we’ve recently seen a school take a hard line against rape. The university made a swift and decisive action, leaving no room for public outcry.

Specifically for Stanford, this is a pretty bold move. According to the “SF Gate,” the school has been one of the schools called out for their sexual assault policies (as in, they’re not stringent enough). Stanford Law professor Michele Landis Dauber prepared a report on sexual assaults at the school, and found the following:

Between 1997 and 2009, just four of 175 reported sexual assaults were formally adjudicated at Stanford, with two of the alleged attackers held responsible.

Doing the math, only 2.29% of reported sexual assaults were tried over a period of 12 years. (And, with what we know about the reporting of sexual assaults, it’s probable that the sheer number of them that occurred was much higher.) The alleged attackers were only held responsible 50% of the time. Pretty shameful.

Dauber noted that the numbers have improved since the report: The university has been “more welcoming” to victims and followed through on investigations (which could mean following through on more investigations, and/or following through more closely). But of course, there’s always room for improvement.

Let’s hope that Stanford’s actions incite other colleges to make the right decisions when, not if, they’re faced with similar situations.

UVA Sexual Assault: Rape Punishments on College Campuses

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

On Nov. 19, “Rolling Stone” published a harrowing article on a UVA student’s 2012 gang rape, and its eventual social and political fallout and complications around the campus. The article goes into depth in detailing UVA’s culture of avoiding the topic of sexual assault, and terming any assaults mere “bad experiences.”

The article cites UVA’s honor code culture that also functions to keep sexual assault quiet. It points out that 183 students have been expelled for violating the honor code since 1998, but there have been no expulsions resulting from reporting sexual assault (which is arguably more prevalent, from anecdotal data).

This isn’t just a UVA issue. Last year, Yale allowed five students guilty of “nonconsensual sex” to continue their education at the Ivy institution without suspension or expulsion. (The sixth one was suspended and future probation.) Instead, they were given punishments ranging from sensitivity training to a reprimand.

The “Rolling Stone” article notes that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college, but only 12% will report an assault to the police. So it’s clear that the actual numbers are much higher than those being reported. Hopefully, this UVA case will spur on more open discussions on sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, and urge universities to hand out heavier punishments for assailants.