In recent months, universities across the United States have come into the spotlight for their collective failure to address rampant cases of on-campus sexual assault. What’s most shocking about these cases is that the institutions with the most prestigious international reputations are also the ones failing to take a strong stance against sexual assault.
When one thinks of the punishments associated with rape, 10 or more years in prison is usually at the top of the list. But for students at Brown University, the story is very different.
Lena Sclove, a student at Brown, claims she was strangled and raped by another student in her first semester at the university. After reporting the incident the Office of Student Life, Sclove went through three months of hearings concerning the incident. Over eight months after Sclove was raped, Brown University administrators finally agreed on a punishment for the student Sclove identified as her rapist: a one-year suspension.
Yes, my friends. This is currently the punishment that rape merits. You physically and emotionally violate another human being, and what happens? You are asked to leave school for a year. But after the year has passed, you’ll be allowed to return to the life you had. Nothing at all changes. In fact, you might even take classes with the student you raped.
The incredible bureaucratic red tape and lack of attention given by the administration to Sclove’s attack has resulted an outpour of support for Sclove. Her mishandled case has caught the attention of media outlets outside of the Brown. And with it, more individuals are speaking out about their experiences regarding the mishandling of sexual assault cases.
Two states over in New York, Columbia University is experiencing a similar situation.
When you hear the name Columbia University, you don’t instantly think of an institution that neglects to address the rape of one of its students. But that’s only until you hear the story of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia senior who, in her sophomore year, was raped by a fellow student.
After suffering in silence, Sulkowicz filed a complaint with her university. In spite of being one of three complaints filed against the same student, Sulkowicz’s case was dropped and her alleged rapist was found “not responsible for his actions.”
In response, Sulkowicz has decided to carry a mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her alleged rapist is asked to leave the University. Sulkowicz is currently using this project, which she calls “Carry That Weight,” to raise awareness for her situation. For her project, Sulkowicz does not allow herself to ask for help in carrying the mattress. (She does, however, accept assistance when others offer it.)
This mishandling of sexual assault cases in American universities is just a small part of the international problem. But as a greater number of media outlets pick up on these cases, one can only hope that universities will change the ways in which they address sexual violence. To quote Lena Sclove, universities must “realize rape is a crime, not a college prank.”