Less than a month into the 2021-2022 school year, there have been 30 assaults reported
By Riley Mulcahy
With the recent events of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there must be a zero-tolerance policy against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Student safety is the number one priority of any university. However, Santa Clara University, whose school year started September 30th, reported numerous sexual assaults early on in the term. The situation begs the question, how did the University get here? According to KRON-4 News, most of the cases have occurred at off-campus parties and involved the use of date rape drugs. Although Santa Clara University argues that it does follow the correct procedures, it can be tricky to handle off-campus situations.
According to Santa Clara University, the school has received three reports of sexual assaults that occurred off-campus. Although, officially, there have only been three cases reported, it is not surprising that survivors do not come forward; at times, there can be shame and guilt associated with sexual assault and the idea of going to a school to report a sexual assault. A couple of years ago, a case at Stanford ended with convicted rapist Brock Turner getting three months in jail because the judge thought that he “came from a good family.”
The Mercury News reports that according to “RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, said that 20% of female students ages 18 to 24 report sexual violence allegations to law enforcement compared to 32% of women in the same age group who aren’t students, citing U.S. Department of Justice statistics.” Furthermore, the data reveals that the main reasons why women did not report their assaults differed: “Twenty-six percent of female students said they didn’t report because “it was a personal matter” and 20% said it was due to “fear of reprisal.”
The data is startling. For years, college students have had to deal with the reality of going to a party and possibly being raped and then afraid to report to authorities or the college because of fear of retaliation. Colleges and universities have made an effort to have resources available on campus, but there is still a reluctance from students to reach out and try to use the support that the campus provides for them. The cost of reporting sometimes means revealing the most traumatic incident of your life to a stranger who does with the information what they feel is right, and there is a loss of privacy.
Although colleges and universities must do their best to eliminate sexual assault, one must question their role in these situations. If a survivor wants to press charges, why does the university need to be involved, not just the authorities? This question does not mean that students should not go to universities to reach out for help if they feel comfortable confiding in someone. Counselors on campus will help the survivor process the assault and provide resources if they want to report. However, it is still important to question the effectiveness of the college processes in how to report a sexual assault. There are massive discrepancies between assaults and the amount that the university is aware of. Bureaucracy has no place on a college campus when someone is violated, and sadly there are often roadblocks to survivors reporting, which means situations such as Santa Clara University occur.
In order for students to succeed academically, the campus must support them emotionally, especially when trauma is involved. Students who survive sexual assaults should not have to go through barriers and roadblocks to reach out for help in one of their lowest moments. If colleges streamlined the process, established total confidentiality, and worked with law enforcement to create accountability, students would know that sexual assault will not be accepted. We must protect survivors and punish the criminals, not the other way around.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, SMC’s CARE Center is here to support you
Melanie Moyer '22,