Though school is always intended to be a safe environment for students and a supportive resource in times of hardship and danger, one university’s officials have been exposed to lack responsiveness to an ever-present issue college students face.
A recent complaint filed to the U.S. Department of Education reveals police and judicial affairs at the University of Akron reacted indifferently to two women’s reports of sexual assault on campus.
One of the women, a senior at the university who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the school’s police in September 2010 and was reportedly told, “I’m not in the business of calling people liars, but in your case it doesn’t look so good.”
Julie Dixon, a 2011 graduate who reported her case in September 2008, said she was discouraged from filing charges and told, “it would be really, really hard for (her) to get a conviction, so (she) shouldn’t attempt it.”
The sheer insensitivity exhibited at the University of Akron toward a major issue recurring on college campuses, especially coming from those who are meant to be a resource for this issue, is among the most alarming forms of negligence.
Only 40 percent of rapes occurring in the U.S. get reported, with only 10 percent of these leading to arrest, according to a 2013 report from the Tampa Bay Times. This reveals that a serious number of rapes remain unreported and only a small fraction that do get reported result in the assailant’s arrest. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the percentage of “rape victimization,” or occurrences of rape or attempted rape, among women on a college campus approximates 20 to 25 percent, with a reporting rate of 5 percent among these incidents.
Since instances of rape are clearly underreported, it is unfathomable how an authoritative figure would deny students seeking help the priority and concern they deserve.
In the University of Akron’s case, it is apparent that campus police and judicial affairs perpetuate the lack of accountability they are ideally meant to maintain. After a two-week investigation, the anonymous senior’s case was closed. Aside from being called a liar by the campus police, she was also told her intoxication weakens her case, even though one cannot provide consent when under the influence.
Moreover, it is also perplexing that Dixon was told by judicial affairs that her attempt to remove the assailant from the school was not even worth pursuing due to the difficulties of conviction. While only four percent of occurrences of rape in the U.S. result in felony conviction, this is no excuse for judicial affairs to deny Dixon the effort in proceeding with the proper measures possible for her case.
This indifference not only represents a lack of accountability on the part of campus police and judicial affairs, but also portrays how, as a result, the assaulter are not held accountable. The assailant in Dixon’s case did eventually spend two days in jail and had two years of probation following his charge in 2010, but he did not receive punishment from the university.
Incidents of rape and sexual assault are highly underreported, and victims should not be discouraged to report and seek assistance. As with the University of Akron campus police, it should be a given that those who bear the responsibility of providing such assistance should not further victimize people, and should rather observe their cases with the seriousness and attention they deserve.
Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.