Huffington Post College
9.17.15 | Alex Pinkleton & Victoria Moran
We want safe campuses. We want to see action taken against sexual assault at the highest level of government. We want to see this issue taken seriously, and as an advocacy group working to prevent sexual violence at the University of Virginia, we appreciate the time, effort, and resources you have devoted to combatting sexual assault. While One Less at UVA recognizes that the Safe Campus Act contains measures that could improve the security of colleges across the nation, such as requiring reporting and bystander intervention training for university students and faculty, we find many of its provisions deeply concerning.
The reality is that if this bill passes, it would have the opposite of its intended effect by ultimately decreasing safety on college campuses.
Of primary concern is Sec. 163 of the bill, which mandates that survivors must initiate a police proceeding before any action can be taken by the University in regards to incidents of sexual assault. We fear that this provision will exacerbate the already severe problem of the underreporting of sexual assaults.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, eighty percent of the college students surveyed who were victims of rape and sexual assault did not report to police. One factor cited for this lack of reporting was that twenty-three percent of students, "believed the incident was a personal matter and twenty percent cited fear of reprisal." From our own education and experiences working with survivors, One Less at UVA has identified three additional factors relating to this low reporting rate: the lack of trauma-informed police officers, low conviction rates in cases dealing with sexual assault, and the disproportionate effects on minority students. Additionally, the Safe Campus Act would have an even greater impact on low reporting rates on college campuses by decreasing access to University resources and assistance provided by Title IX. Therefore, this bill will contribute to a greater culture of silence around sexual violence rather than augmenting current advocacy efforts to increase reporting rates.
Lack of Trauma Education Among Police Officers