Charlottesville NOW Publishes Statement to UVa on Sexual Assault on Campus

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.

For further information, contact Virginia Daugherty at 434-293-5622 or virginia@papercraft.com.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. civilrightsactivist
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 15:29:18

    Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy and commented:
    Charlottesville NOW, this is a great letter to the administration at the University of Virginia on things they can do to reduce campus sexual assaults. Let’s see if UVA takes a strong stand or wiggles away from this issue, creating a climate of indifference towards violence against women. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that UVA takes the first path rather than the alternative, negative one.

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    Reply

  2. Dr. Simone Roberts
    Jan 06, 2015 @ 09:27:50

    ** From NOW member John Elligers, via email to me, shared with permission. **

    As do virtually all NOW members, my wife and I (retired attorneys) believe sexual assault is an important problem on college campuses (or elsewhere). However, we also strongly believe that sexual assault allegations should be addressed via the police and criminal prosecution rather than via university disciplinary procedures — indeed, that it is counterproductive to use university disciplinary procedures to address sexual assault allegations.

    Certainly, there is a gut-level sense that a university should “do something” about sexual abuse. However, the university — in reality as opposed to in wishful thinking — is not a government but rather is a seller of services and, for some, a landlord. We would not expect — or want — Safeway or the owner of an apartment building to investigate/prosecute/adjudicate an alleged rape that occurred in the supermarket or the apartment elevator. For the same reasons, we should not expect a university to investigate/prosecute/adjudicate an alleged rape that occurred on campus or that involved students.

    Sexual abuse crimes — by their nature — are often/usually difficult to investigate/prosecute/adjudicate, particularly sexual abuse crimes in which the victim is intoxicated and there are no neutral witnesses to the incident. Experienced police officers, prosecutors, and judges have great difficulty determining what happened, whether a crime occurred, and, if so, what that crime was. It is simply unrealistic to expect a university disciplinary procedure — staffed by individuals with at most limited criminal law knowledge/experience and operating largely without the ability to compel testimony/evidence from unwilling witnesses — to fairly and efficiently investigate/prosecute/adjudicate sexual abuse allegations. The outcome will be too unreliable — too many false positives (convictions of the innocent) and too many false negatives (exoneration of the guilty). False positives destroy lives and render the university vulnerable to lawsuits; false negatives further harm the sexual abuse victim who has endured the investigation/prosecution only to see the wrongdoer vindicated and herself discredited.

    By all means, universities should educate students regarding how to avoid sexual abuse, should provide counseling to sexual abuse victims, should strongly encourage (but not require) that victims report allegations to the police, and should expel students found guilty of serious sexual abuse in the courts. But, universities should not undertake investigations/prosecutions/adjudications of sexual abuse allegations and NOW should not advocate that universities do so. — John Elligers

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