Poor sexual assault legislation threatens campuses

Kristine Totanes, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Incidents of sexual assault on college campuses have long been an issue. The Clery Act was the first step in correcting poor administrative response to sexual assault and other violent crimes. But recently there has been a rallying call for better legislature regarding the response to these acts. Several bills have been introduced to the Senate, some better than others. One, the Safe Campus Act, is an excellent example of how not to write sensible bills regarding the issue.

The Safe Campus Act, recently introduced to Congress, clearly only benefits perpetrators of sexual assault, allowing them to escape punishment for their crimes. It also enables the facilitation of more sexual assaults on college and university campuses. This creates a dangerous environment for students and diminishes the cause of supporting victims of sexual assault.

The act, which prohibits college and university administrators from investigating sexual assault cases on their campuses until the victims have reported the incidents to the police, was mainly created with the intent of protecting people, especially men, against false accusations. While steps must be undertaken to protect the falsely accused and prevent such accusations from taking place, the safety of women and men who might become potential victims of sexual assault on college campuses must not be undermined.

This is exactly what the Safe Campus Act accomplishes. Instead of sheltering the falsely accused, it provides an easy means of escape for people who commit sexual assault crimes, thereby increasing the number of on-campus assaults and also hindering the efforts of advocates against sexual assault.

Oftentimes due to fear of public exposure and humiliation, victims of rape or any form of sexual assault do not report such incidents to the police. When these cases go unreported, college and university campuses, operating under the parameters set by the Safe Campus Act, cannot investigate these incidents. As a result, unreported criminals repeat their crimes and more people are at risk of sexual assault.

Police investigations of sexual assault crimes focus on the typical signs of a violent crime: signs of struggle, weapons, injury, etc. The issue with this is that approximately 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, friend or family. Even worse, only 32 percent are reported to the police, and only two percent result in criminal convictions. It is no mystery why university student services are often more suited to handle the nuances of these cases.

For those who have been advocating justice and achieving strides in combating sexual assault, this is bad news. After achieving a fair amount of success in raising awareness in a society in which related crimes have been a historically serious and often ignored issue, advocates now face a major setback. How they will be able to overcome this obstacle remains to be seen, but should the Safe Campus Act pass, these issues will be extraordinarily difficult to overcome

Kristine is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]