Campus sexual assaults are tragedies occurring across college campuses on a high rate. The reporting of these incidents have been taken place for years, however, issues surrounding these and other acts of crimes still need to be addressed and tackled. Numerous outlets, media venues, etc., have recently documented this phenomenon, analyzing and critiquing its current affects, rate of occurrences, and exploring possible solutions on combating the problem head on. Examples of the outlets and venues following this phenomenon are Cspan and CNN, which includes the recent documentary by CNN Films titled, The Hunting Ground.
This past summer, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension committee convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss the present state of college campus sexual assaults. Previously, spearheaded by Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO, congress introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), February 2015. This act was an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), Clery Act, Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Campus Save Act, and the Higher Education Opportunity Act or HEOA (Public Law 110-315). Being amended several times over the years, this act requires the reporting of, by schools and educational related programs, crime statistics with local law enforcement agencies, and the reporting of the rate of occurrence of sexual crimes, wrongdoings, transgressions, and the victimization of college students on institution of higher education campuses.
In addition, Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) amendment requires the adherence to several mandate updates to campus police and security, campus safety policies and procedures, and the accountability of officials’ policies and procedures. In communion with the senators during a testimony session in July 2015, were other stakeholders and constituents of college campus safety. This included the University of California System President Janet Napolitano and Dean Heller Republican Senator from Nevada, whom offered strong recommendations for senators and senate committee members to weigh in during their discussion of campus sexual assaults, what their efforts have been to tackle the problem, and add any other meaningful recommendations for amendments to current laws as needed.
An ongoing fight, combating campus sexual assaults will need the help from all stakeholders, constituents, and any additional persons involved. This may include victims, the families of victims, colleges and universities, law enforcement, and public officials and community leaders. During their senate hearing meeting in July, senators discussed their goals of ensuring that the United States of America’s 6,000 colleges and universities have safer college environments with the prevention of campus sexual assaults. This will be done by 1. Eliminating duplicate laws and regulations, to counsel students, and create safer environments. 2. Coordinate with law enforcement centers more effectively, and 3. Establish procedures that are fair, protecting the due process rights for both the accused and the accuser. In addition, college campus students were engaged in conversation with senators offering their recommendations for the fight to help combat college campus sexual assaults. They suggested that colleges 1. Support mandatory training for students 2. Provide confidential advisers for students and victims, and 3. Ensure all disciplinary hearings for students are fair for all persons involved, this including the accused and accuser.
Featured in the recent documentary The Hunting Ground, CNN and their associates reported on the current state of college campus violence and sexual assaults. In this documentary, victims made public their experiences with college campus sexual assaults, the adjudication process colleges and universities follow, of which, oftentimes, is of sub-par status, and the need for the battle to prevent college campus sexual assaults to continue. Credited for their outstanding work on this documentary, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering discussed core issues surrounding this phenomenon during the documentary to bring to light this phenomenon that is occurring, and how can all persons assist in preventing and eliminating such occurrences from ever happening on college campuses globally.
One of the many issues surrounding this phenomenon discussed included, the lack of reporting of assaults by the victims. During a panel discussion, Lady Gaga and Diane Warren along with the film makers spoke on this, where both Ms. Gaga and Ms. Warren have been through a sexual assault themselves. Ms. Warren further expounded that she was afraid to speak about it or to tell anyone about her assault because somehow she felt as if it was her fault. Mr. Dick expressed his concerned of the lack of effective responses by the colleges and universities the victims attended. He particularly asserted his belief that these institutions of higher education possibly fearing a loss of “reputation” if the news of such occurrences were to come out, which resulted in schools’ lack of having an effective response system.
The documentary featured two well publicized and critical accounts of students being victims of sexual assaults while on campus, in addition to, the lack of effective response by the universities the two students attended. The incidents occurred at Harvard and Florida State Universities. The victims were Kamilah Willingham and Erica Kinsman, whom attended Harvard and FSU respectively. The main issue with these two cases was that the universities where their assailants attended never formally charged the assailants with a crime, which can be credited to a number of different reasons such as, personal connections with the university or star athlete status. In the Willingham case, the Department of Education had to intervene and overturn the appeal granted to the assailant by the Harvard Law School’s Administrative Board, which showed a lack of credible diligence by the Harvard Law School on making sure justice was served. Concerning the Kinsman case, the documentary showed that little effort was taken by FSU, FSU athletics department, and the Tallahassee Police Department to investigate the accusation. The process took years to get started and go through an investigative process, however, the accused in this case has still yet to be charged.
College campus sexual assaults are events taking place on college campuses across this nation, and even on a global scale. A phenomenon that needs to be addressed, tackled, and eliminated, college campus sexual assaults and any other acts of violence occurring on college campuses are worth getting rid of. It will take a global community of invested persons willing to see an end to this tragedy before an end to college campus sexual assaults can be realized.