Sexual Assault on College Campuses: A Culture of Indifference
Many college women say their experiences after being sexually assaulted -- often in date rape situations -- illustrate a culture of indifference and denial that results in one in five young women being assaulted during their college years. Unclear and conflicted internal disciplinary systems can compound their suffering, according to this series by InvestigateWest journalists Carol Smith and Lee van der Voo and edited by Rita Hibbard.
Stephanie S. reported being sexually assaulted in a University of Washington dorm room in 2001.
Credit: Dan DeLong/Special to InvestigateWest
Athletic club weekend weekend turns into nightmare for college freshman
But her ordeal brings change to state system
Emily Lorenzen turned to college administrators for help after she was hazed into drinking too much alcohol and woke up naked in bed next to a persistent upperclassman whose advances she had spurned. She found a lack of concern and a desire to protect the university, and says the college investigation and disciplinary process victimized her again. But the experience spurred her father, then head of the board of higher education in the state of Oregon, to begin making changes in that state that could have long-ranging impact for young victims like Emily in the future.
Colleges ‘in denial’ about campus sexual assault problem, advocates say
Reporting system fragmented and unclear
One reason the frequency of sexual assault on campuses continues to be high is that schools are in denial about the scope of the problem, say advocates and victims. In addition, universities have fragmented reporting channels, and women report assaults in various ways – they may call the police, tell a friend or faculty member, go to the hospital or seek counseling at the sexual assault center.
Overwhelmed and unsure, victims often delay seeking help
Discipline meted out to accused often light or nonexistent
The story of a frustrating search for justice through an unclear and conflicted college disciplinary system is compellingly told through the experiences of two women who reported being raped on campus. Both women say the schools’ handling of their cases compounded their trauma, and both point to insensitive handling that ranged from inappropriate questioning to being required to go through mediation sitting near the man they had accused. Discipline for the alleged perpetrators was light or nonexistent, and left both angered that students who suffer sexual assaults by other students are often left to bear the emotional, physical and financial consequences, while those they hold responsible for their anguish walk away.
A dangerous mix: drinking, sex and college students
62 percent of sexual assaults are ‘drug-facilitated’
A majority of sexual assaults involving college students also involve drugs or alcohol. Advocates say this is one reason the prevalence rate of assaults continues to be high, and also partly why so few are ever successfully prosecuted.
Sexual assault crosses all barriers, gender included, and same-gender assaults are not uncommon on college campuses, experts say, but the obstacles to reporting are even greater.
- Sexual violence on campus: Too few consequences?
- Sexual violence on campus: not just a crime of men against women
About the project
What happened to one young woman who reported being sexually assaulted on a college athletic club trip and another who reported being raped by a college athlete she casually dated is not unique -- their lives fell apart, and the men they accused suffered little or no consequences, InvestigateWest journalists reveal in this series. We show the high prevalence of drugs and alcohol in sexual assaults, the lack of training provided to students to recognize and deal with date-rape and non-consensual sexual situations, and the murky and sometimes conflicting disciplinary processes in place.
The series is launched in concert with Seattlepi.com, KUOW-FM,the Spokane Spokesman-Review and The Oregonian. This work was done in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity in a project that includes NPR and regional campus assault stories from four other members of the Investigative News Network - the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Texas Watchdog, and the Rocky Mountain News Network.
These stories illustrate the power of working together. Many of the young women whose stories are told here initially thought they stood alone; when their voices are joined as they are in a project of this magnitude, the scope of the problem begins to be visible. Read this groundbreaking work here, and remember that without your support for independent investigative reporting, this kind of work cannot be done.
Christopher Anderson, The Spokesman-Review
Dan DeLong, Red Box Pictures
Erik Hill, Anchorage Daily News
Dan Miller, Combine Photo
Lee van der Voo, special to InvestigateWest
Public Health | September 2013
Of the roughly 50,000 kids who will attend Seattle schools this fall, nearly 2,000 will hit the books in classrooms within 500 feet of Interstate 5, InvestigateWest has found. This despite a body of evidence dating back decades that highway air pollution can cause lifelong respiratory problems and asthma attacks and boost school absenteeism.
From Seattle to Spokane, what can be done to make sure schools are healthy places for kids?
Photo: John Marshall JHS, 1963. SPSA 108-97.
Public Health | July 2013
Memory loss is one of the symptoms of dementia. So is wandering. Over the last five years, at least 10 people in Washington state have died after wandering away from where they live. It’s a problem that communities will have to confront as the population ages. But not all police departments are prepared for these kinds of incidents.
Wealth & Poverty | June 2013
Six nonprofit groups arose on the Bering Sea shore, and they have invested mightily in ships, real estate and processing plants. Over two decades, the groups amassed a combined net worth of $785 million," write Lee van der Voo and The New York Times' Kirk Johnson.
But the results on the ground, in rural community and economic development, have been deeply uneven, and nonexistent for many people who still gaze out to the blinking lights of the factory ships and wonder what happened. Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Public Health | March 2013
As Washington state was on the cusp of finalizing new, stronger water pollution limits, Boeing and its allies intervened, all the way up Gov. Gregoire herself. Using newly released public records, InvestigateWest uncovers how business interests and their allies trumped the health of sport fishermen, tribes, and everyone else who reels in dinner from local waterways.
Wealth & Poverty | February 2013
“It was just common knowledge – when you turn 18, you’re done,” Sharayah Lane said. “After the checks stopped coming, we all went our separate ways."
End of the Line is a new series by Claudia Rowe asking what happens when teens get too old for foster care in Washington State.
Photo Credit: Jon Connell/Flickr