Friday, October 24, 2014

Title IX Bares its Teeth in the Fight Against Campus Rape

In a recent San Diego public radio news story entitled Fraternity Culture Linked to College Sexual Assault Problem, I was surprised to discover that college fraternities indemnify themselves against sexual assault charges. That's correct! Rape is built into the cost structure of their insurance policies. Sexual assault charges against fraternity members represent the second largest percentage of claims brought against fraternities except for assault and battery charges. When parents send their daughters to universities, they don't sign them up for that.

Time magazine took a hard look at the issue of sexual assault on America's college campuses in its May 26th, 2014 cover story "Rape: Crisis in Higher Education," by Eliza Gray. The Department of Education released a list of fifty-five colleges that are under federal scrutiny over how they handle sexual assault complaints. When United States Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez stood before a press conference and announced there would be a federal investigation of the University of Montana, he told the reporters that "In the last three years, there have been at least eighty reported rapes connected with the university." Perez announced that the university, the city police, and the county attorney were all under investigation. "Other big public institutions like Ohio State, Harvard, and Princeton are also under investigation," he added.

Eliza Gray concluded that the problem is much broader than the big name universities who get all the bad publicity. "The truth is, for young women, particularly those who are eighteen and nineteen years old and just beginning their college experience, America's campuses are hazardous places. Recent research shows that one in five women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during college." Statistics also revealed the obvious that three-quarters of rape victims were incapacitated by alcohol. "College party culture takes particular advantage of young women who lack experience with alcohol," reported Gray.

Because of the cultural tolerance for drunken fraternity parties, aptly portrayed in the 1978 movie Animal House, it is a rite of passage for many young men and women to drift into the "Greek" party environment to see what it is all about. Campus life is a liberating cocktail of new found freedoms for freshmen. But large scale frat parties offer protective cover for sexual assault and attracts more than its share of predatory males looking to have sex with inexperienced and incapacitated young women. This testosterone-driven environment is fueled with large amounts of alcohol and date rape drugs that many young college women fall prey to.

The latest study shows that only12% of university rapes are ever reported to law enforcement because of fear of retaliation. The study also found that women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women. The number of universities the U.S. Department of Education is investigating has grown to eighty. Their study seeks to assess how universities respond to rape on their campuses and has been focused primarily on athletic departments and fraternity row. But the federal government is also examining how university officials and law enforcement handle these charges when they are brought to their attention.

Title IX is a 1977 law that combats gender discrimination in college sports. The Obama Administration has turned it into a weapon in the fight against rape on America's college campuses. In April of 2011, the Department of Education sent a letter warning colleges and universities to adequately address the issue of sexual assault on their campuses or risk losing federal funding.

Fraternity Culture Linked to College Sexual Assault Problem KPBS, October 21, 2014

Rape Culture Reality Check: