One in four college women report experiencing attempted rape or acts that meet the legal definition of rape, but the number only skims the effect of sexual crime on college campus.
Sexual assault is underreported on college campuses because many women are embarrassed by it or believe it is rare.
A former student of Amherst College, Angie Epifano, had the same mentality until she published her rape account in the opinions column of Amherst’s student newspaper.
Amherst Student Reveals All
Epifano was raped her sophomore year in college by an acquaintance in an on-campus dormitory. The detailed account describes the poor handling of her situation by the university. In a session with the campus’ sexual assault counselor she was told “…pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you sure it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…”
The column has generated a conversation nationwide on how universities handle sexual misconduct on campus and the university policies in place to prevent it.
In many cases, this has led universities to review Title IX, the education amendment of 1972 protecting students from sex discrimination essentially guaranteeing gender equity in educational environments.
Reviewing Title IX
About a year ago, the U.S. Department of Education added a new part to Title IX to cover sexual assault.
“The conversation now is this part of Title IX the Dear Colleague Letter that is very much related to sexual assault and how colleges and universities respond to allegations of sexual assault, “ said Frank Shushok, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator of student-on-student sexual conduct.
According to Shushok, Virginia Tech has collaborated to make slight policy changes as well as changes in practice.
A new change in policy allows a victim to appeal decisions in the student conduct process. Before, only the person being accused of misconduct could appeal the decision, but both have the opportunity of doing so.
However, sections regarding the practice of these policies are receiving more attention.
“The Dear Colleague Letter has created a significant discussion about who can remain confidential about their obligations to report sexual assault, sexual harassment.” Shushok said.
At Tech, Schiffert Health Center and the Cook Counseling Center are the only two places where a student can share, in confidentiality, that they’ve been sexually assaulted. Anyone else at the university that receives that information is obligated to report it, according to Shushok.
The report goes to Title IX investigators who explore the case and submit findings to student conduct for the final decision.
While this is one way of managing sexual violence on campus, programs have been put in place to educate students on sexual misconduct.