Monday, November 17, 2008

Colleges Can No Longer Impose Gag Orders On Rape Victims

From The Hook:

Four years after the college safety nonprofit Security on Campus filed a complaint against UVA [University of Virginia] for its mishandling of sexual assault cases, the Department of Education has ruled that the university has, in fact, violated federal law by threatening victims of sexual assault with punishment if they spoke about their cases.

The ruling has major implications for victims of sexual assault on college campuses across the country, according to the man who filed the complaint on behalf of then-UVA student Annie Hylton, now Annie Hylton McLaughlin.

“It means that victims can’t be silenced at UVA or anywhere else,” says Daniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus.

This is an important ruling which should eliminate an unfair restriction on those students who report rape to their college.

I read the official reason given for UVA's policy, but I don't believe that reason. Colleges and universities know there is a difference between privacy rules restricting what college employees can say about disciplinary hearings and gag rules restricting what students can say.

The real goal of this gag rule seemed to be the protection of the college's reputation at the expense of all those who reported rape. If this protection of the college or university also effectively protected rapists then that seemed to be an acceptable trade-off.

If the official administrative response at these colleges was unfair or dangerous to the person who reported rape or to other unsuspecting students, the student who reported rape might have to choose between getting an education and speaking the truth about a current danger.

This gag rule could also force students who were raped to be powerless to defend themselves against lies spread by a student rapist or friends of that student rapist. A rapist who was found guilty in college hearings could be wrongly assumed to have been found not guilty because that student faced absolutely no undeniable sanctions.

Students who would never torment someone they knew to be a rape victim might have felt justified in tormenting a genuine rape victim whom they didn't believe because that rape victim was not allowed to speak the truth about the official investigation.

Colleges should never have the power to demand secrecy from rape victims as the price for those rape victims getting even a shot at an appropriate response by the college or university.

If college administrators know that students who report rape can talk freely about problems in the official investigation and the official rulings while they are still students, the official response will most likely be less focused on the protection of the college.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:26 AM   2 comments links to this post


At November 17, 2008 4:13 PM, Anonymous DerelictDaughter11 said...

Woohoo! This is great news! Thanks for the post. (I came over via Shakesville. Teaspoons, ahoy.) :)

At November 18, 2008 8:00 AM, Anonymous nuclearmse said...

Good news. I had a friend who ran up against this policy in college, and it made everything so much harder for her, when she realized that her university was more interested in protecting their reputation than in protecting their student (her). Thanks for posting this! (Surfed in from Shakesville as well.)


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