After I learned how soon the statute of limitations had kicked in for my rapist, I was assuming that in 2007 schools would have better training so signs of distress would be recognized and once a rape or sexual assault was reported to someone at the school that law enforcement would be contacted.
I didn't have the words "I was raped" in my vocabulary at the time of my rape because of the limitations of how rape was described to me as I and other girls were warned about strangers. But it is now 2007 and another girl in Washington state did have those words (or at least the concept) in her vocabulary so she was able to report her experience to an adult at her school. That should have begun the process toward recovery and justice.
Only it didn't work that way.
From KIRO TV:
According to a police report obtained by KIRO 7 Eyewitness News, the alleged victim said a male student forced her into a restroom and assaulted her while another male student stood guard at the door on June 4. The girl then told an adult, who told the school officials, according to the police report. Details as to what those officials did next aren't clear.
Since according to this story the Seattle police were called on June 21 by the student, and the adult she initially reported to, it's pretty clear that no school official at Rainier Beach High School called the police.
This adult who was told by the student should have been instructed by school policy and training to call the police immediately. Once that call was complete then the school administration should have been contacted. The crime scene should have immediately been closed until the police were done collecting evidence.
The girl needed to be treated as someone who has been through a serious trauma. Treatment after a sexual assault of, "Yeah, thanks for telling us now get lost so we can do our job" sends the message that sexual assault isn't a true crime and that feeling traumatized means there is something wrong with you.
Finding out that the boys involved were suspended for 3 days and either knowing or suspecting that the police hadn't been notified must have felt like the school didn't see sexual assault as much more serious than students skipping school.
This message in turn contributes to the post-sexual assault trauma many survivors experience when they don't get the support they need and I believe this message contributes to the increased risk of suicide.
It isn't just the student victim who is harmed and put at risk when schools don't report alleged sexual assaults to the police. Schools who handle report of sexual assaults internally are putting themselves at risk of a lawsuit from the alleged rapists.
An ex-student of Southern Methodist University is suing them for $750,000 for their disciplinary action against him which he claims unfairly branded him a rapist. He appealed his original hearing and his expulsion was overruled and he was given a lighter sentence which allowed him to reapply after a year suspension.
From the Dallas News:
The incident is another in a series of troubling reports involving SMU students. Three students have died from drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning in a little more than six months.
According to the lawsuit, the student was a freshman at the business school when he met the young woman at an off-campus fraternity party on Jan. 21, 2006. He says that the two went back to his dorm room after the party and had consensual sex.
But the woman testified at the disciplinary hearing that she began to feel dizzy and sick after taking two sips of a drink that tasted like cranberry juice, the lawsuit says. She later told her resident adviser that a stranger offered to drive her home from the party and instead took her to his room and raped her, according to court documents.
This information doesn't make the man filing suit sound like someone who has any proof that he was wrongly accused of rape. This is one of the complaints in the lawsuit:
The panel was allowed to consider rumors that the student "pushes himself on women," while most courts restrict the use of prior bad conduct.
In a college hearing these "rumors" are directly relevant since this isn't a criminal trial and because a university has to consider whether this student has the potential to pose a serious risk to other students.
The problem I see isn't one of what's relevant, but of training. If in this case the woman was given a spiked drink by someone at the frat party, depending on the substance, it's possible she wouldn't exhibit what people would recognize as impairment even though her behavior is out of character. That would mean that the man accused of rape (if he is being truthful) could be blaming the college and the woman for the fallout of criminal actions taken by someone else at that party.
I find it interesting that at least one blogger has described the young woman as someone who "cried rape." An interesting claim to make when decrying a college's rush to judgment when that college has far more information about the case and the students involved than the blogger does.
There is also a flip, victim-blaming attitude by many people who react to alleged rapes on or near colleges when it comes to alcohol use. This attitude conveniently overlooks the students who have died of alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses. Many student parties are regularly run in a way that puts lives in danger but often it is the person who is raped or the person who dies who is given full responsibility while no responsibility is assigned to those who deliberately provide drugs or dangerous levels of alcohol.
Warnings about not drinking too much which are directed only at girls and women are either assuming all alcohol-related deaths happen to them or these people don't care when boys and young men die.