Thank you, state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside).
For some time, a dirty little secret, not touted on the glossy college recruiting brochures, has been emerging that the glamorous, exciting, academic and fun-filled world of many of our colleges has been the danger and criminal acts of violence against our young women on and around our college campuses.
The horror of the girls and parents, who sacrifice economic security to give them the opportunity to grow their future, turns into tragedy and reports in recent stories tell us that one of five girls experiences some type of sex or rape.
Research by the U.S. Department of Justice and the White House Council on Women and Girls indicates that one in five college females has been the victim of a sexual assault, and only 12 percent of student victims report the assault to law enforcement.
“All too frequently, we hear stories about on-campus crimes, often sexual in nature, that are swept under the rug by colleges in an effort to protect their reputation,” said Braunstein. “This creates a system where criminals are not held accountable for their actions and parents are not provided with facts about the safety of the school where they send their children. The perpetrators of these crimes should be prosecuted in a court of law. As such, in addition to conducting internal investigations under Title IX and the Clery Act, colleges and universities should be compelled to inform local law enforcement agencies about these cases.”
Long hidden, these statistics have been allowed to exist and grow due to the failure of college authorities to take responsibilities for the safety and security of their students and the shame felt by these young victims who are reluctant to report the crimes.
How did this situation happen? As the result of the big changes in the 1960s in students’ demand for freedom and long-held attitudes about sexual freedom, colleges changed from the old ways of rigid separation of the sexes and rules about leaving campus.
The longstanding idea was that colleges were “in loco parentis,” meaning that the college was taking the place of the parent to safeguard the living and learning space of their children.
Colleges almost overnight courted students by abolishing all previous customs and allowed co-ed dorms and even in some instances co-ed bathrooms and all forms of restrictions on visits between the sexes. Unfortunately, young women leaving home for the first time and coming to this free atmosphere, wanting to make friends and be popular, are naïve about the dangers.
Faced with the double standard for young men, cheered on and encouraged by the social media and movies, also wanting friendship and status. They feel obliged to “score” and sometime band together and encourage each other to get the girls drunk and even slip drugs into their unattended drinks, causing the kind of excess acts and refusal to accept that “no means no!”
When the girls do report the incidents, the colleges do not want the bad publicity and often hide the facts. Sometimes, these incidents happen in fraternity houses around the campus and college authorities refuse to accept responsibility, leaving the matter up to the town police. Unfortunately, the attitude of “boys will be boys” still exists.
We thank Braunstein for his sensitivity to the plight of these young women who deserve to get their education and enjoy the benefits of their college experience free from fear of violence and years of physiological damage.
Colleges must not be allowed to abdicate their responsibilities and hide this ugly fact on their campuses to avoid responsibility. They are still in the parents’ place to provide guidance to the people of both sexes and not be allowed to take a “laissez-faire” attitude, which is leading to repeated and greater incidents of this criminal behavior resulting in violence against women.
The legislation will help to prevent the hiding of statistics, but the college administration must take action and develop programs to control this behavior. The attitude in the town and the police must also be involved and our communities to look at the problem and work on the solutions.
Thank you, Ed Braunstein, for taking the first step.
Founder and Chairwoman
Center for the Women of New York