“Look over the numbers again.”
“The numbers of reports are too high.”
For two weeks, Melinda Manning—a former dean of students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—was called again and again from school administrators hounding her about the school’s rape statistics. In a complaint filed this week to the US Department of Education, Manning, along with three students and one former student, claim that UNC pressured the dean to underreport sexual assault cases and harassed her when she wouldn’t. Manning also alleges that when she didn’t change the statistics, others did. (Colleges are mandated to report crime statistics to the DOE as part of the Clery Act.)
The complaint also details the way in which rape victims who came forward at UNC were mistreated. Annie Clark, who graduated in 2011, alleges that when she reported her rape in 2007 she was told by an administrator: “Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation?”
After Andrea Pino was raped at a party—“I just woke up in my bed covered in blood and not knowing what happened”—she applied for medical withdrawal from classes due to PTSD and depression. Officials told her she was just “being lazy.”
While horrific, the actions taken by UNC to cover up the prevalence of rape at the school is not at all unusual. Colleges have become breeding grounds for injustice around issues of sexual assault. Ninety-five percent of campus rapes are never reported, and the small number of victims who do come forward are often stigmatized, harassed and mistreated. They have to live in dorms with their rapists and are made to relive their experience in front of student disciplinary boards who have no training in sexual assault cases.
An investigative report from the Center of Public Integrity also found that schools are able to limit their Clery reporting by directing victims to rape advocates instead of campus police because counselors aren’t required to disclose. They also frequently misclassify rapes as “non-forcible” sexual offenses. The report also showed that the punishment for campus rapists were outrageously minor. Common disciplinary actions included writing a research paper on rape or having the rapist pen a letter of apology to his victims. Perpetrators are almost never expelled. In fact, after one student revealed her terrible mistreatment at the hands of Amherst officials, it came out that the school had only ever expelled one student for rape in its entire history.
We know from tragic cases like that of Lizzy Seeberg—a young woman who killed herself after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual assault—that the consequences of ingoring the pervasive rape problem on college campuses goes well beyond issues of legal reporting and statistics. This is about women’s lives; this is about justice. And right now, we are failing miserably.
For more on America’s wantonly twisted attitudes toward rape, read Jessica Valenti’s take on victim-blaming.