VA NOW is very proud to share this open letter to the administration at the University of Virginia concerning its policies and handling of sexual assault on campus.
A major focus of VA NOW’s advocacy work in 2015 will be on sexual assault, and sexual assault on campus — along with work on violence against women generally.
We are very happy to see Charlottesville NOW leading the way in their community and for the state. You can read a public record of UVa’s response to recent sexual assault allegations and the campus climate here: (click).
Background: In November 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” the story of Jackie and the wrongs done her. Later, RS published a partial retraction due to their lack of reporting and editorial diligence, and some uncertainties in Jackie’s report of her experience led to a firestorm of media response ranging from denunciations of RS’s reportage to rape apologists proclaiming the 2% of false of rape reports as an epidemic. Charlottesville NOW cuts through the haze and media distraction to get to the point: College administrations need to treat sexual assault as a crime and work to create college cultures in which the epidemic of rape on campus brought to an end.
Sexual Assault Statement
by Charlottesville Chapter
of the National Organization for Women
Charlottesville women are deeply concerned that Rolling Stone’s backtracking on its University of Virginia article will detract from efforts to reduce sexual violence at the university. The current flurry of opinions and press coverage will die down, but the problems of assault will continue as usual. These problems must be addressed more successfully than in the past. The university is making stronger efforts to address them, and this is no time to turn back.
An activated student body is ready to embrace and use the “Hoo’s Got Your Back” campaign, and it should be pushed in every way, including involving fraternities. The administration should support the many efforts by student groups, including One Less, Feminism is for Everyone, Not on Our Ground, Help Save the Next Girl and Buddies on Call.
Administration policy at UVa should work to create a safe school and not just a charming historical campus. Although privacy and confidentiality must be respected, victims of crime should be encouraged to report assaults. Rape is a crime and should be treated as such. The fact that no expulsions have occurred at UVa as a result of rape is a horrifying testament to shaky policy and the lack of useful, truthful training about sexual assault. Women and men should not have to study and go to class with their attackers walking about the grounds free.
The university should have agreements with local rape crisis organizations so that survivors disclose, report and feel heard with an appropriate trauma informed response. Survivors are more likely to participate with law enforcement to hold an offender responsible under such a supportive environment. No matter where a survivor enters the process, UVa needs a coordinated community response between university officials, crisis centers, local and university police, and hospitals.
In addition, the school should give training on what a healthy relationship is and how to fight off an attacker (Rape Aggression Defense training).
We support the law being placed before the General Assembly, HB 1343, stating that a sexual assault being investigated by a university be reported to the local commonwealth attorney within 48 hours. This law would increase the likelihood that proper evidence would be gathered without delay so that crimes could be successfully prosecuted. Strong law enforcement is needed to provide safety for students and other citizens.
If the survivor is not financially able to access attorneys, UVa should provide them whether the survivor uses the disciplinary or public court system.
The university should provide resources to train and hire more nurse examiners who are certified as “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners” (SANE certified) to ensure that a person who has been assaulted can be expertly examined and treated.
More vigorous efforts to address the underlying problem of alcohol abuse, especially among the underaged, are needed. And finally, as President Sullivan has stated, strong enforcement against so-called date-rape drugs is necessary.