Prevalence of Campus Rape: Strategic Leadership Prevention and Recommendations

Prevalence of Campus Rape: Strategic Leadership Prevention and Recommendations

Theresa D. Neimann (Oregon State University, USA) and Uta M. Stelson (Wayne State University Law School, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch099


Most educators are aware of the statistics about the prevalence of campus sexual assault and rape. While the focus is usually on remedies many educators fail to see the connection between psychological ramifications, grade deflation and college non-completion as some of the possible outcomes. The authors suggest that educators, administrators and strategic leadership need to understand how Social Norms Theory, sports, and rape culture play into the prevalence of campus sexual assault and rape on students' ability to thrive in college and complete and the need to adopt a proactive stance whereby they can help to offset the gloomy statistics in campus sexual assault and rape. This chapter will also focus on the legal and risk management impact of neglecting to establish and/or non-enforcement of policies to both prevent and address campus sexual assault and rape. Many educators and administrators fail to understand the potential costs of Title IX Violations and benefits to colleges and universities from the Violence Against Women laws, especially the Amended Clery Act. Lastly, recommendations are forthcoming in helping leaders and risk management employees be proactive and strategically plan to reduce the occurrences of campus sexual assault and rapes.
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The fact is, rape is utterly commonplace in all our cultures. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, yet we all act as if it’s something shocking and extraordinary whenever it hits the headlines. We remain silent, and so we condone it…Until rape, and the structures – sexism, inequality, tradition – that make it possible, are part of our dinner-table conversation with the next generation, it will continue. Is it polite and comfortable to talk about it? No. Must we anyway? Yes. To protect our children, we must talk to them about rape. – Desmond Tutu

The issue of campus rape has exploded, with dozens of schools, including Harvard Law School, under investigation. A 2009, study by the Center for Public Integrity found that between 1998 and 2008, the Department of Education (DOE), placed disciplinary actions against just five universities out of 24 complaints. Rape on college campuses has created a crisis in higher education of colossal proportions. It has unfortunately become a common occurrence on many college campuses. It not only affects persistence and completion rates for the victims, but damages the self-image and the soul of the affected students. Moreover, it promotes sexism, breeds inequality, and fosters privilege and entitlement gender paradigms.

The issue of “violence against women” also does not wait until male students are college-age. Take, for example, the case of Owen Labrie: Labrie attended the prestigious New Hampshire Episcopal college prep school, St. Paul’s, whose alumni included Secretary of State John Kerry and former FBI director Robert Mueller (Ortiz, 2015). The school has an unofficial, possibly decades-old, tradition referred to as the “Senior Salute” in which male seniors attempt to hook up with as many freshmen girls as they can, which sometimes involves having sex with them (Sutherland, 2015). Ultimately, Labrie was convicted of the felony of using an online service or the Internet to seduce a child under 16 in order to commit a sexual assault, as well as three misdemeanor counts, including a misdemeanor sexual assault and a misdemeanor child endangerment. He was acquitted of the felony of forcible rape and received a sentence of one year in prison followed by probation. He also has to register as a sex offender for life (Ortiz & Johnson, 2015). He has since filed a motion for a new trial (Merlan, 2016).

Rape is the most underreported violent crime in the United States (Gross, Winslett, Roberst & Gohn, 2006; U.S. Department of Justice, 2002). More than a third of college rapes happen on campus (Sampson, 2002), and it is estimated that less than 1 in 20 attempted or completed campus rapes are ever reported (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner 2000; U.S. Department of Justice, 2000).

There are many reasons why there are low report rates. Most rape victims are too embarrassed to report and choose not to report, due to having to relive the experience by verbally retelling their stories. In addition, many victims don’t report for fear they will not be believed or will be shamed or blamed for the rape, or fear of retaliation, or fear that the perpetrator will not be prosecuted.

Alcohol is involved in three-fourths of college related rapes, as was revealed in data from one study involving 119 schools participating in three Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys. The sample of randomly selected students included 8,567 women in a 1997 survey, 8,425 in a 1999 survey, and 6,988 in a 2001 survey (Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004). What complicates justice to the victims of campus sexual assaults and rapes is that only 10-25% of the college male perpetrators were ever expelled (Shapiro, 2010; Roark, 1987).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Rape: Sexual penetration with or without semen against a person’s will (DOJ, 2012 AU83: The in-text citation "DOJ, 2012" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Sex Offender Registration: A registry system employed in the U.S. as well as other countries requiring those convicted of sex crimes, including rape, to inform authorities of their address and other pertinent information, which is publicly available to any interested citizen, often in the form of a searchable website.

Rape Myths: Sets of rape myths that may be culturally construed but are untrue. Example of rape myths include: if a woman wears tight jeans or a short skirt, she wants sex; if a woman is drunk she wants sex; if a woman attends a fraternity/sorority party she wants sex; a belief that silence and submission means consent; if a woman dances with a man she wants sex; rape is perpetrated by strangers; if a woman says no, she really means yes ( Berkowitz, 2000 ).

Title IX: Title IX (20 U.S.C. sections 1681 – 1688) states in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX applies to educational institutions at all levels, including local school districts, post-secondary institutions, charter schools, for-profit schools, libraries, and museums. The institutions non-discrimination obligations span a wide variety of activities ranging from recruitment, sports programs, discipline, sex-based harassment, and employment, to name just a few.

Campus SaVE Act: The Campus SaVE Act is an amendment to the Clery Act (see above). The Act requires campuses to provide annual statistics about incidents of campus crimes, including sexual assaults, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking occurring on campus and reported to local police or campus authorities. It also requires colleges to publish which rights victims of sexual assault have, how evidence of such crimes can be preserved, what community resources are available to victims, and how and to whom to report such crimes. The Act further mandates that colleges provide education programs on bystander intervention and risk reduction, and that colleges handle disciplinary hearings promptly, fairly, and impartially. A school may face a warning or fines of up to $35,000 per violation.

Sexual Harassment: Any unwanted attention of a sexual nature.

Clery Act: The Clery Act (20 U.S.C. section 1092 (f) and 34 C.F.R. 668.46) requires all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid funds to collect, keep, and disclose information about crimes committed on or near their campuses. The United States Department of Education, which monitors compliance, can impose civil penalties of up to $35,000 per violation and can suspend violating organizations’ participation in the federal financial aid programs.

Social Norms Theory: Social norms theory states that individuals incorrectly perceive that the attitudes and behaviors of others are different from their own, when, in fact, they are similar, because individuals assume that the most memorable and salient, though often extreme, behavior represents the behavior of the majority. This may lead the individuals to adjust his or her behavior to that of the presumed majority by adhering to these pseudo-norms ( Berkowitz, 2000 ). Specifically, in the context of campus rape, there may be a perception that “everyone does it” and “no one says that it’s wrong”, giving the false impression that rape is accepted behavior on campuses.

Violence Against Women Act: The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. sections 13701 through 14040) (VAWA) allocated significant funding toward the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted under it and established the Office of Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. The Act has been reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013. One of the provisions of the original Act, a woman’s right to sue her attacker in federal court, was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 in the case United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000). The Act also institutes a federal Rape Shield Law.

PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental illness comprised of a group of symptoms experienced by patients who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying event. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, as well as changes in emotional reactions (Mayo Clinic, 2016 AU82: The in-text citation "Mayo Clinic, 2016" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Rape Culture: Rape culture is a feminist theory stating that rape is pervasive and normalized within a society or culturally accepted due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality, such as victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivialization or denial of rape as a problem ( Bell, 2016 ).

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