The Reality of Sexual Assault Within The University of Iowa

Thanks to Chase Carson for a close look at the University of Iowa’s policies related to sexual assault. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Sexual assault has been something that many Universities have struggled with for a long time, for example, Take Back the Night (a march for ending all sexual, relationship, and domestic violence) has been around since the 1970’s. But for the generation of students that are going to college across the nation right now, nothing has shed more light on the problem of sexual assault on campuses more than the documentary The Hunting Ground, which was released February 27th, 2015. Within the film, it not only highlights how much of a growing problem this has become, but it also speaks out about how inefficient and terrible schools are about handling sexual assault cases.

After a personal viewing of the film I wondered about the facts behind sexual assault within the University of Iowa school system. I was worried that my school was just like all the other Universities shown in the documentary: incompetent and just downright unfair to the victims of sexual assault. After probing around for information and becoming a part of MAC (Men against violence council) for a semester, the reality of how the University of Iowa handles sexual assault became clear.

Each and every school in the nation has to adhere to the laws of Title Nine and the Clery Act. Title Nine states that 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. The Clery Act, on the other hand, says that schools have to release a report that details all of the crimes that violated University policy. Included in this is the responsibility of the school to send out the crime alert and trigger warning e-mails to its student body whenever a sexual assault case is reported. Fortunately, the public can access these reports. Viewing the report for the 2014 school year, the University of Iowa reported seventeen total rapes, fifty-nine cases of fondling (fifty of which were committed by one suspect onto one victim, the case ended in an arrest), nine cases of dating violence, three cases of domestic violence, and twenty-eight cases of stalking. Also included in the report are the sex offenses committed in the 2012-2013 school year (there were thirty-three cases of forcible sex offenses).

There is no doubt that there is a problem of sexual assault on the University of Iowa campus. These numbers are disturbing, but they also show signs of promise. At first that sounds like a conundrum or a paradox (how can all these cases show a sign of promise?) but the truth of the matter is that it shows that people (mostly women) are not afraid to report to the University and that they ARE reporting. Some colleges around the nation brag about having zero sex offenses in their Clery report. These reports go directly against the fact that one in every five women and one in every sixteen men are sexually assaulted in college, and saying that there were zero incidents is ridiculous. These are the colleges that should be scrutinized because it shows that their students are not confident in the school’s ability to handle the situation appropriately.

This is something that the University of Iowa excels at. It has many resources for students that want to report a sexual assault: the WRAC (Women’s Resource and Action Center), RVAP (Rape Victim Advocacy Program), and the OSMRC (Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator) are just some of the available organizations and programs that the University of Iowa provides for its students. Because of the massive sexual assault programs that exist within the college, The University of Iowa is actually one of the top leaders in the nation on the topic of sexual assault.

The University is not without its faults. There were ten incidents of sexual assault this spring semester, including someone who was video-taping women shower in one of the residence halls. And it was only three years ago that the University changed its crime alert and trigger warning policy e-mails so that they would be sent out if the person was assaulted by someone they knew. Before that the college only had to send out the e-mails if the victim didn’t know who the assaulter was. This strategy was counter-productive, as four in five women are raped by someone they know.

It also seems that University of Iowa officials are always in trouble with something regarding sexual assault. The past president of the college, Sally Mason, said “I’m not pleased that we have sexual assaults, obviously. The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that’s unfortunate, but the more we understand about it, the better we are at trying to handle it and help people get through these difficult situations.” Sally received some heat for this quote, as not only is it strange to contradict yourself within two sentences, but also for saying that eliminating sexual assault is not a realistic goal. The current president of the University, Bruce Harreld, told the football team that they were the leaders on campus, and that they should be the ones to step up on this problem. It seems that he forgot that one of the school’s most infamous rape cases was against two football players and the University of Iowa football program, and the the school was inspected for it’s inability to handle the case. The other famous sexual assault case was against Pierre Pierce, a player for the basketball team.

There are changes to policy that advocates against sexual assault are pushing for at the University of Iowa. The biggest one concerns policy towards allegations made against a faculty member, like a professor. The way the policy is set up now, the University does not have to disclose anything about the investigation to the victim. Advocates are pushing for reform on this policy because they feel that the victim should know something about what the University is doing to help. This is a bigger problem than what most people realize, and can lead to deadly consequences. Two University of Iowa professors committed suicide after facing sexual assault allegations in 2008.

The University of Iowa does need to change some things, but the reality of the situation is that the school is more helpful to its students concerning sexual assault than what most people realize. In a Q&A with a member from the RVAP program at the University, she said that “The University gets better and quicker justice than the criminal system” meaning that it is actually more beneficial for students to report through the school than it is to go to the local police, and after another Q&A with a member from the OSMRC affiliated with the University, it was a relief to see how serious they were about sexual assault. Yes, The University Of Iowa should look to reform some of its policies, but it is great to know that a nationwide leader in the fight against sexual assault is the college that I call my own.

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