This week has brought a disturbing new light to what sexual assault on campus looks like and how it is handled. The student petition and movement to demand more transparent sexual assault policy led the administration to create a new website about its policy, although definitive information and results have not yet been released. The White House even began an initiative to provide better education on college campuses worldwide.
An article from the Blue and White published yesterday went viral on Facebook and Twitter as students reacted to the piece and encouraged each other to read them, with tremendous emphasis on a trigger warning.
Two incredibly important points emerged from the piece:
1) Columbia's Policy on Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct is more lenient than New York state law. Whereas a student in violation of Columbia's policy “may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, reprimand/warning, disciplinary probation, suspension, and dismissal", a person convicted of first-degree rape can be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. These victims hoped to spare their assailants the same pain inflicted upon them and preferred punishment to prosecution. They shouldn't have to make that choice.
2) One of the victims preferred that Columbia investigate her assault rather than the NYPD because she felt that she would not be taken seriously as a victim; she assumed that Columbia would not only be effective in prosecuting her attacker, but also supportive of her psychological needs. This should not be a failed assumption but a fact taken for granted. Columbia Psychological Services has already come under tremendous scrutiny for failing students who seek help; students who are victims seeking help should be monitored and supported automatically.
We cannot tolerate this any longer. We, as a student body, have increased awareness about consent, about trust, and about sex positivity on campus. But we have failed to change the stigmatization of the victims of such crimes and we have failed to change our social mores to support victims.
This conversation needs to happen and should be taken seriously as well as relevantly. Columbia should be a place that is safe for everyone.