Activists pick up mattresses across the country, schools bring in professional investigators, and a statistical analysis of the increase in reported sexual assaults.
If you follow news about sexual assault on college campuses you’ve almost certainly heard of Emma Sulkowicz, a sexual assault victim/survivor who is carrying her mattress everywhere she goes on the Columbia campus until her assailant is removed from the university, or leaves of his own volition. As her story has gained more and more attention, Sulkowicz has received help carrying her mattress from supporters on the Columbia campus. Now, activists and supporters around the country are helping Emma bear her burden, albeit metaphorically, by carrying mattresses on campus in a #carrythatweight Day of Action meant to raise awareness about sexual assault and show support for victim/survivors of sexual violence. Search the hashtag to see images of activists across the country inspired by Sulkowicz’s senior thesis.
Schools having trouble training faculty and administrators to act as criminal investigators are increasingly turning to outside help to resolve on-campus sexual assault cases, often in the form of actual or former criminal investigators. This NPR piece profiles one such investigator, former prosecutor Djuna Perkins, who has helped schools such as Harvard, Emerson, and Amherst investigate sexual assaults. Perkins discusses the difficulties and complications posed by sexual assault cases, and the necessity of looking past facts that less experienced investigators might automatically assume to be indicative of consent. The piece also takes a look at why schools must conduct investigations, as opposed to simply passing such cases on to local law enforcement, and the unique difficulties that can be created by simultaneous law enforcement and university investigations.
Another story that anyone who follows these issues will have seen is the increase in reported sexual assaults in this year’s Clery Annual Security Reports. We’ve written in the past that, perhaps counter-intuitively, the increase in reported sexual assaults is most likely a positive development in the fight against campus sexual violence. This piece from the Washington Post goes deeper into that idea, taking a look at possible explanations for some of the largest increases reported by schools across the country. They point out, for example, that one of the largest increases in reported sexual assaults occurred at Gallaudent University, a school for the deaf and blind whose students may not be able to report to anyone other than the sign language speaking staff and faculty, precluding the possibility that reports would go to law enforcement. Similarly, students at Reed College, another school with a notable increase in reported violence, have demanded that Reed improve their response to sexual violence on campus. The piece speculates that improved procedures are responsible for a bump in the percentage of assaults reported, as opposed to an increase in the number of actual assaults. It’s all yet more evidence that more reporting is a positive development.