National News | 1.25.15
This Spring, the Association of American Universities plans to question 800,000 college students about the problem of sexual assault on campus. As we're about to hear from one of the leading women in the United States Senate, it's complicated -- and finding a fair system for dealing with it isn't simple, either. Tracy Smith reports:
If you want to see what resilience looks like, here are a few pictures. These women say they are all survivors of sexual assault. They prefer the term survivors.
On the signs are the words that still haunt them: quotes from their attackers.
GRACE BROWN/PROJECT UNBREAKABLE
Twenty-two-year-old Grace Brown came up with the idea of Project Unbreakable three years ago to give survivors a moment of closure -- captured forever in a photo.
"I started this project thinking it be maybe 10 people involved," she said, "and suddenly it exploded.
"I tell them to write down whatever they want to let go of the most," said Brown. "I wanted something that would stick."
And those words? "They stick," she said.
And it looks like she won't run out of subjects any time soon.
Government figures show that women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely targets of rape and sexual assault.
Exact numbers are hard to come by since many of these cases go unreported, but campus rape has become an all-too-frequent news story.
In November, a now-discredited article in Rolling Stone roiled the University of Virginia with a tale of an alleged gang rape at a fraternity party. But while much of it has been called into question, it's helped fuel a national conversation about sexual assault on campus.
The White House joined in last Fall with the "It's On Us" campaign.
The bad news, says Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., "is that there's probably more of it because there is a much different sexual climate on campuses than there was 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.
"It's complicated -- that's why you can't hope to find justice in every case. What you can do is try to put up systems that allow justice to occur. This is difficult, difficult stuff."
And that's putting it mildly: A lot of sexual assaults are never reported, and victims who do come forward aren't always comfortable going to police. So in many cases, it's up to the school to sort out what happened, and how to handle it.
Sarah Gilchriese, now a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder, says she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student in February 2013.
"How often do you think about what happened that night?" asked Smith.
"I think about it every day," Gilchriese replied.
"Do you remember details of the night?"
"Did you say no?"
"You say that emphatically. Why do you say that so emphatically?"
"I told him to stop. I told him I didn't want to do it, multiple times."
"And yet . . ."
"He took advantage of me."
"In your heart of hearts, do you think he realized that what he was doing was wrong?"
"Absolutely not. Nope," said Gilchriese. "The way he acted, I feel like he felt he was entitled to my body."