67 colleges and universities across the country are currently under investigation by the Department of Education for potential sexual assault policy violations, and they might be the safest places for students.
Earlier this month, The Washington Post released sexual assault data from college campuses, showing a stark contrast in how colleges handle what is increasingly becoming acknowledged as a national problem. While the number of sexual assault reports at some schools reach double digits each year, many schools claim they have had no reports of sexual offenses on campus.
As Occidental College professor Caroline Heldman explained to Jezebel, “It’s a sad fact that we want higher [reporting] numbers … These are the schools you should probably be sending your kids to, because that means that there’s a network of survivor activists who are pushing back.”
While the unfortunate reality is that likely every college has significant issues with sexual violence on campus, a higher number of assault investigations may be the sign of an administration that is comparatively responsible and active in dealing with student complaints. A college with a high number of sexual assault investigations is almost certainly a safer campus than the 40% of schools that haven’t had any investigations in the past five years — which are very likely ignoring an issue prevalent throughout higher education.
Additionally, a higher number of sexual assault complaints probably means that these schools have clear ways to report sexual misconduct, and actively educate their students as to what constitutes unacceptable actions.
As Heldman told Jezebel, a visible student activism campaign may be a sign of a safer campus. In many cases, student awareness campaigns can help a victim feel comfortable coming forward about being sexually assaulted or direct them to the appropriate resources.
Even the institutions themselves are recognising the positive impact of a higher number of sexual assault reports. Cornell University Chief of Police Kathy Zoner recently told a school publication that she was “heartened” by an increase in the number of sexual assault reports, as the higher number indicated “not that the campus is less safe, but that people are feeling more comfortable turning to our many campus resources for help.”
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