Why the Campus Rape Crisis Confounds Colleges
During her freshman year at Occidental College in Los Angeles in 2010, Audrey Logan says, she was raped on two separate occasions by a young man she considered a friend. Because she knew him and had been very drunk both times, it took a while for her to identify what had happened as an assault. “I really believed rape happened in the dark, by people you barely or don’t know, and weapons or group force were always involved,” she says.
Such a reaction isn’t uncommon. According to a National Institute of Justice study, campus rape victims who are incapacitated by drugs or alcohol very rarely report their attacks to police, and more than a third say it’s because they didn’t realize a crime was committed or harm was intended. “It wasn’t until a close friend at another school simply listened and validated my feelings that I finally was able to start my arduous healing process,” Logan says. Once she accepted that she’d been violated, she waited until March of her sophomore year, when her assailant was studying abroad, to report him to the administration.
In a meeting with someone from the dean of students’ office, “I explained what had happened, and the woman I was reporting to looked like a deer in the headlights,” Logan says. The administrator, she says, didn’t direct her toward any resources or review her legal options. “It really set the tone. Things only got worse from there. There was just a level of professionalism that was lacking throughout the entire process.”
The dean of student life acted as the investigator in the case. When Logan arrived at her office to give a statement, the dean’s recorder was broken. Instead, she took notes. Later, she produced a document that was missing important information.
In May 2011, there was a hearing with a panel made up of faculty and administrators. Logan’s alleged assailant appeared via Skype. “One of the worst parts of the hearing was that each party was allowed to ask the other questions, and those questions would be reviewed or filtered through the hearing board,” Logan says. So her alleged rapist would direct questions to her, and she would wait as the board decided whether they were relevant and she had to answer them. “It was a really revictimizing experience,” she says.
At one point, after a break, she returned to the room to hear the members of the panel chatting amiably with her accused attacker about his finals and the weather in the country where he was studying. “How do you come into a room where everyone is laughing with your rapist?” she says.
There was surprisingly little disagreement between the two about the facts of the case, only about what those facts meant. The young man argued that she’d been extremely drunk during both encounters, Logan says, as if that somehow exonerated rather than indicted him. “He was using the policy violation as an excuse for his policy violation.”
In the end, he was found responsible and expelled. Then he appealed, arguing, in part, that since he’d been drinking too, technically she was an assailant as well. Logan says that Occidental’s lawyer began pressuring her to reach a private settlement with the man’s family, but she refused and the appeal went forward. Again, the young man lost. He would be kept off campus for good. It was the fullest victory a victim can expect in a case like this, and yet Logan felt more devastated than vindicated. “The adjudication board itself was one of the worst things I had to experience outside of the actual assault, and in some ways it was worse,” she says.
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