CNN Reports: Colleges Failing Women, 1 in 5 Still Rape Victims
One in five college women will be raped, or experience an attempted rape, before graduation. Less than 5 percent will report these crimes to officials on or off campus, and, when they do, there's a good chance the system will let them down.
These shocking statistics were first issued nine years ago in a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal laws are in place to require schools to act on these allegations and look out for the rights of victims.
But a recently released investigative journalism series indicates that when it comes to dealing with sexual assaults, many higher-education institutions aren't making the grade. The investigation was done by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit that says it seeks to make institutions more transparent and accountable.
"Schools are aware it's a problem, a big problem," said Kristen Lombardi, the center's lead reporter for Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice. She pointed to a "culture of silence" and said critics say, "The biggest sin is one of omission. They're just not dealing with this issue head-on in a public manner with their student bodies."
Over the course of nine months, Lombardi and her colleagues spoke to 33 women who'd reported rapes, interviewed about 50 experts and surveyed more than 150 crisis clinics and programs on or near campuses. They also reviewed cases and combed through 10 years of complaints against institutions that had been filed with the Department of Education.
Feeling invincible, an age of denial and disbelief
"I wish I'd been less trusting of my surroundings," said a woman who said she was assaulted as a sophomore in 2007. "In college, you feel as if you are invincible, when in reality, trouble could be hiding behind the façade of a casual get-together or a party where you feel completely safe. Always keep control of yourself and your surroundings, and keep a close eye out for your friends as well.
"And if you are a friend of a person who has been assaulted, all I can say is that though it might be hard, please listen and support that person," continued the former student, who said she was "met with a response that I never expected -- laughter and disbelief. Because of that, I kept silent until my attacker assaulted a friend of mine almost a year later."
Said another rape victim: "Do not binge drink or leave drinks unattended."