College is an exciting time for young people from all walks of life to gather, learn and grow into the primes of their lives. Boston is filled with a number of world class universities. College campuses, in an ideal world, would be bastions of safety, where the aspiring leaders of tomorrow can feel comfortable regardless of the scenario. Unfortunately, as with every other aspect of society, people do horrible things that can have life-altering consequences.
Sexual assault on college campuses is an increasingly prevalent problem in American society. According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while they are enrolled in college. Women in college are also three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than average.
What is more heartbreaking, though, is that 90% of victims who are assaulted while in college do not report the crime. Researchers have hypothesized that part of the reason for the lack of reports is due to the shame, negative stigma and possible backlash that can follow as a result of going public with a sexual assault incident.
Rape culture: Prioritizing silence and shame over justice
“Rape culture” refers to an aspect of American culture that shames victims of sexual assault into not reporting the crime. Whether it’s due to fear of not being believed, fear of being blamed or shamed or just wanting to try to forget that it happened. One need look no further than the most recently publicized college sexual assault case involving Brock Turner, a standout swimmer at Stanford University who digitally raped a 22-year-old female student after she fell unconscious, to see how twisted the sociological climate regarding rape is.
Two eyewitnesses saw the crime occur and actually intervened to stop it from going further, and despite a good amount of physical evidence and a possible sentence of 14 years for felony sexual assault, Turner was given only six months in a county jail and three months of probation. He only served three months of that sentence, and is currently living at his family home on probation, sparking widespread outrage across the country.
Although Turner was convicted guilty, and some legal minds have defended the judge’s verdict as being reasonable considering the circumstances, the public’s furious response nevertheless indicated how people are becoming more and more fed up with sexual assault on college campuses. It was seen as a slap on the wrist, preferential treatment being given to someone because they were an aspiring athlete. Meanwhile, the victim he assaulted has to deal with the repercussions of that night forever.
“Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me,” said the victim in a powerful impact statement during the trial. “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”
When seeking justice, a good team is everything
The victim in the Turner case is a rare example of a sexual assault victim who actually came forward and fought for her own justice. If she didn’t hire a legal team to advocate on her behalf, and answer grueling questions from defense attorneys that made her relive her worst night time and time again, it’s very possible, and actually quite likely, that Turner could have never been brought to justice for his crimes.
Colleges are coming under fire for their lackluster handling of sexual assault cases as well. The U.S. Justice Department just officially criticized Wheaton College for their handling of a sexual assault case, and Harvard University has under heavy scrutiny from a slew of lawsuits involving mishandling of sexual assault cases. They were officially found in violation of the gender equity law Title IX by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015.
Where other entities fail at getting victims the justice they deserve, Altman & Altman LLP will not. Our team of dedicated legal experts will not falter in our mission to ensure that anybody victimized by a sexual assault gets the compensation and the justice that is rightfully theirs. Contact us 24/7, 617-492-3000 or toll free, at 800.481.6199.