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News Clips 07/16/2014
EDITORIAL: Campus rape crisis
Source: Gainesville Sun, 07/16/14
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The University of Florida has more reported sexual assaults than any other college or university in the state, but that might just show it does a better job than other schools in encouraging victims to report cases.
UF had 24 reported sexual assaults from 2010 to 2012, according to statistics required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education. No other public or private college in Florida reported as many sexual assaults over that period, The Sun reported in a story published Sunday.
Even though UF has better reporting practices than most other schools, it still likely has far more unreported sexual assaults than those that show up in statistics. The university community must keep being vigilant in encouraging the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults as well as work to keep them from happening in the first place.
The epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses has drawn national attention. A Time Magazine cover story in May declared it was a "crisis in higher education."
A White House task force reported that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Less than 5 percent of rape victims attending college report their attack to law enforcement, according to a Justice Department figure in a survey released last week by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
The survey of 440 four-year institutions found only about half of universities provide a hotline to sexual assault victims, just 44 percent provide the option to report sexual assaults online and about 8 percent of institutions do not allow confidential reporting.
UF is ahead on those counts. It provides confidential reporting online and a hotline for reporting sexual assaults, according to The Sun story.
UF is not among the 67 colleges and universities under federal investigation for possible violations of laws dealing with the reporting and investigation of sexual assaults. The list includes Florida State University, where star quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape and later cleared.
A New York Times investigation found that Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a student's complaint against Winston. Another Times story, published Sunday, showed that victims face other problems when universities investigate cases.
The story examined a disturbing case of a freshman woman allegedly sexually assaulted by football players at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. It showed that student disciplinary boards operate with scant accountability and limited protection for the accuser or the accused.
Such stories show that more accurate reporting is only part of addressing the problem. In addition to doing a better job investigating, universities must also better educate male students to respect women and understand consent. They must also discourage the kind of excessive drinking during which assaults can happen.
UF does better than most in facilitating the reporting of sexual assaults, but two dozen cases over three years is likely still just a portion of the actual number of cases. The university is increasing the frequency of a student survey that will hopefully provide a more accurate picture.
Better data will help serve the bigger goal: Reducing the actual number of sexual assaults of students.