Washington Post Article Misses the Mark

I found the title of the article “Schools trying to prevent and respond to sexual violence” in the Washington Post to be extremely misleading. I expected to read a some stories of how schools are adequately and sincerely making efforts to prevent and respond to crimes such as rape, but instead I found myself reading a boring, shallow article that barely grazes the real picture of violence on college campuses and how institutions are dealing with it.

One thing that resonated with me, though, is a trend that I am sure is a huge factor in the lack of proper response to gender-based violence:

“Most students don’t think violent relationships are a problem at college…If students think about abuse at all, they picture an older married couple, maybe poor or alcoholic — nothing like their friends at school.”

I would not hesitate to think that those false assumptions stop at students – many college administrators probably believe that, too, which obviously is a recipe for disaster. The media has taken a liking to highlighting the tragedy of Yeardley Love’s murder at University of Virginia as a sort of anomaly, while I hesitate to think that’s the case. I think that the perfect combination of a young white woman attractive by mainstream standards with the right people caring and spreading the word has contributed to her name becoming nationally recognized.

The article periodically throws in some lukewarm, general statements about measures that are supposed to be preventing sexual violence. “Schools can offer a level of protection beyond the criminal justice system’s capabilities” – they can but do they? The Center for Public Integrity has made it clear that schools often opt to let a student accused of rape go free, rather than have a legitimate, thorough investigation and subsequent judicial process.

I think the journalist who wrote this failed to paint a proper picture of what is being done about violence on college campuses. One commenter, 3russells, seemed to have agreed with me. If you remember, Yeardley Love murderer was a student at UVA. 3Russells details a history of sexual violence that has happened at UVA for years and lack of response.

UVA maintains a zero tolerance for cheating but not for rape….

In 2005 the University responded to a Freedom of Information request to divulge the exact number of student reported rapes. The UVA response was 52. That’s 52 crimes that resulted in zero arrests, zero sanctions…

In addition, the Dept of Education found UVA to be in violation of the Clery Act.”

Schools shouldn’t be merely TRYING to respond to sexual violence. They SHOULD be responding to it and preventing it. Most college campuses are no stranger to gender-based violence, so it is not a legitimate excuse to say that the sudden media spotlight of a murdered student suddenly awakened them to this prevalent, urgent issue.

Merely having policies, education programs, judicial processes in place isn’t enough alone. We should be looking at how effective these measures are and if they’re actually being implemented properly.

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    1. Pingback: Former UVA Student, and Rape Survivor, Speaks Out About School’s Apathy | Change Happens: The SAFER Blog