It looks like even major universities can’t get over that antiquated idea that rape is little more than “boys being boys,” and continue to patently ignore the safety of women n their campuses. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is currently investigating the University of Southern California after 13 women made complaints about how the university failed to appropriately address reported sexual assaults. The allegations include a woman who had her complaint dismissed by officials, even with recording audio of the assailants confession, because they desired an “educational” over a punitive process. Because clearly, this young man was just wayward and misguided and wasn’t aware that it was inappropriate to rape women. Another woman reports that a detective with USC’s police force declined to turn her case over to LAPD, and campus officials dismissed administrative proceedings because her rapist did not have an orgasm during the attack. It appears to these officials that it’s a-okay to forcibly penetrate a woman, just so long as you don’t inseminate her. A quick check of the California Penal Code seems to contradict this, though. And in an oh-so-classic example of victim-blaming and slut-shaming, one official advised a young woman reporting an assault at a fraternity part that she shouldn’t “go out, get drunk and expect not to get raped.” So in the mind’s of USC, all women who drink alcohol deserve to get raped.
I’m well-aware that there’s a long history of covering up sexual violence on college campuses throughout the US, and that the lengths to which these cover-ups go only increases with the prestige of the institution. After all, images need to be maintained, and being known as the home of dozens of campus rapes isn’t very good for marketing. Despite the stereotypes of universities as these bastions of progressive values and liberal ideals, clearly many of them harbor a culture with beliefs about sexual assault and women’s sexuality that resembled the 1920’s. Not shockingly, USC is far from the only school under investigation. UNC-Chapel Hill, UC-Boulder, Swarthmore, and Occidental are all also currently being investigate by the OCR. When you realize how important a college degree has become to succeed in the job market, particularly for women, it’s terrifying to wonder just how many young women have had their lives and futures destroyed because not only are universities not taking their safety seriously, but they can’t even be bothered to appropriately handle a rape after it’s happened. Rape trauma and the associated PTSD are real consequences of sexual assault, and they have very negative effects on your ability to function- you know, like going to class and passing exams. And who would want to continue schooling in a place that’s unconcerned about the fact that you were raped? I think I’d run screaming.
I can only hope that the OCR’s investigations shakes these schools into some major changes and maybe catalyze a closer look at sexual assaults on campus throughout our country. But if history tells me anything, these women’s cries will continue to fall on deaf ears.