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
Equal Justice | December 2014
With grand jury reform elsewhere focused on eliminating racial bias and curbing police use of force, Oregon is an outlier: It is one of just 14 states that do not regularly record the citizen grand juries that charge people with felonies.
Almost five years after police killed an unarmed black man in Portland and the Multnomah Co. district attorney petitioned for that grand jury to be recorded, lawmakers in Salem are lining up behind a reform bill to mandate recording statewide, InvestigateWest has learned.
Seafood | December 2014
A struggle in Alaska over shrinking supplies of halibut is threatening the iconic centerpiece fish in favor of cheaper exports, fast-food fillets and fish sticks.
At risk is most of the frozen supply that sustains restaurants, food-service companies and retail stores nationwide, such as Costco and Whole Foods. Lee van der Voo investigates.
Photo: Peter Haley / The News Tribune
Environment | November 2014
It will take hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the Duwamish River. But how clean is clean? And who decides?
Robert McClure looks at how lobbyists and community groups have squared off over the health of the waterway and its neighborhoods.
Photo: Paul Joseph Brown/ecosystemphoto.com
Trafficking | October 2014
Authorities say organized gangs increasingly are trafficking children for sex in the Northwest, and even cooperating with each other to stymie police.
Meanwhile in Portland, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has become the third most prolific nationally in securing indictments for trafficking children and adults for sex.
Photo: Oregon DOT/Flickr
Minimum Wage | August 2014
"Everyone is aware that passing a $15 an hour minimum wage was historic," an advisor to Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council told InvestigateWest. "But if we cannot enforce that, we haven't accomplished much."
Based on a review of more than 20,000 wage theft complaints, hundreds of pages of reports and more than a dozen interviews, "Stolen Wages" shines a light on the dark world of pay violations in Seattle and across Washington.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Party politics have thwarted bridge safety improvements, and an investigation drags on to decide how the trucking company, its escort car and the state may share blame. Yet a new mapping tool for truckers may offer hope, Jason Alcorn reports.
Infrastructure | May 2014
Portable, modular or relocatable classrooms — whatever you call them — are a necessity for cash-strapped schools.
But many portables become permanent fixtures, in place for decades at a time. Costly and insufficient, these aging structures burden the grid, frustrate teachers and administrators and compromise student health.
Environment | April 2014
Energizing our world with wood sounds so natural. And it has quickly become a multibillion-dollar industry as governments including British Columbia and the European Union turn to biomass to replace dirty old coal. Yet what we found when we dug into the coal-vs.-wood debate will surprise you.
Public Health | April 2014
We update our 2013 series on Washington’s estimated fish consumption rate with news of a private meeting where Gov. Jay Inslee and his advisers wrestled with how much to protect business versus consumers when it comes to water pollution in the fish we eat.
Consumer Safety | April 2014
Manufacturers put a warning sticker on every ATV sold: The vehicles aren't meant for roads. But a push to allow just that is rolling out across the country. Washington and three other states passed new laws in 2013, among 22 states to allow or expand ATV access to roads since 2004.
Wealth & Poverty | December 2013
It's the unexpected catch in catch-share programs: A federal program that was supposed to help preserve and enhance the fishing economy in Kake, Alaska, has instead helped cause a severe decline. Meanwhile, 50 miles southeast, the town of Petersburg is booming.
The third part in our trilogy of fish stories examines the consequences catch-share policy where it was born, even as the model has been established in 14 other U.S. fisheries, encompassing dozens of species ranging from New England scallops to Pacific sole.
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.