Dismantle rape culture

The numbers are unsettling: One in five college women will experience sexual assault before graduation, according to the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, an inquiry conducted for the Department of Justice.

And locally, UC Davis ranks high when it comes to such reported assaults, according to a July report from The Washington Post, which gathered 2010-12 Clery Act data from every U.S. college with at least 1,000 students.

This week's Feature Story “Does UC Davis have a rape problem?” by Janelle Bitker (see page 16) parses the stories behind those troubling numbers. Reading Bitker's account, which echoes similar tales from across the nation, it's not difficult to spot a disturbing trend: Time and time again, alleged perpetrators face lax consequences, including only temporary suspension. Certainly, they don't endure humiliating victim-blaming questions along the lines of “What were you wearing?”

A Center for Public Integrity study, published in 2010, closely examined 33 cases of assault and surveyed more than 150 crisis-center and clinic reports as well as 10 years of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education. The study's researchers, acknowledging a lack of comprehensive institutional data, noted that “abusive students face little more than slaps on the wrist.” And, even as many victims suffer poor grades or drop out of school altogether, “colleges seldom expel men who are found ‘responsible' for sexual assault … these schools permanently kicked out only 10 to 25 percent of such students.”

That's a deplorable standard. It's time to dismantle the college rape culture. It's time to change campus policies and procedures so that an alleged attacker faces the same kind of investigation and, if necessary, the same punishment he would in the so-called real world. To do any less is unacceptable.