Rape investigations deserve expediency
Proper education no replacement for faulty, antiquated processes
The mentality surrounding rape and sexual assault has undeniably progressed. In most instances, victims have the opportunity to come forward and share their stories. As compared to two or three decades ago, accusations today are far more likely to be dealt with in a serious manner. However, the investigative and legal practices employed when dealing with these cases have remained stagnant. A recent article by The Daily Targum places a distinct timeline on how an allegation of rape was handled by the University. On the surface, the process appears to be slow moving and riddled with bureaucracy.
Under Title IX, the federal government mandates that colleges and universities take no more than 60 days to fully investigate sexual violence cases. However, schools do have the ability to take up to 60 days even if the full time period is not necessary. In the case mentioned in the Daily Targum article, the University was unable to comment on whether or not they took more or less time than the allotted 60-day period.
The investigation of this case shows that instances of sexual assault are by no means cut and dry. The offender is not always a stranger or a drunk person at a party. Sometimes it’s a significant other or best friend. That is often what forces investigations to be difficult and long-winded. Regardless, when it comes to these cases, victims can only demand care and expediency.
Unnecessarily stretching out an investigation is dangerous. Independent of how long they last, investigations almost always open the door to re-victimization. The individual who suffered rape or sexual assault is forced to recount the event multiple times to ensure accuracy, making time incredibly sensitive. Prolonging an investigation can be used as a ploy to coax victims into dropping charges as opposed to seriously exploring the situation at hand. While the 60-day time period allows for a full investigation to ensure that all parties involved have their voices heard and that all sides of the story are examined, the process must be expedited whenever possible.
The exploration and end result of this case highlights Rutgers as a responsible institution. The ongoing situation of rape allegations out of the University of Virginia and the Carry That Weight campaign that started at Colombia University and then spread nationwide, are evidence that perpetrators are not always dealt with accordingly. In both of these situations, the alleged offenders remained students despite their actions. Therefore, comparatively, Rutgers is more productive. The individual accused and found guilty of sexual assault was suspended from the University for the remainder of the victim's time at school.
When a situation unfolds near you, it’s easier to identify with or understand its implications. In that sense, sexual violence is a lot like racism: until you experience it, you probably won’t realize how big of a deal it is. And there is no one way to codify experience. It can be on a personal level or through familial interactions. Experience can also mean receiving formal or informal lessons dealing with the matter at hand. But such an unfortunate phenomenon should not be so commonplace. Efforts to improve awareness most assuredly exist at Rutgers. At New Student Orientation, students are made to watch a rape scene play out, teaching them how to react and respond to such situations. On-campus organizations dedicate themselves to educating students on the realities of gender-based violence. We hear about the need for enthusiastic consent and the necessity to teach men not to rape. The University itself piloted the iSpeak Project, that issues a "climate survey regarding cases of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses,” according to an article by The Daily Targum.
Educational efforts concerning the issue have a necessary presence at the University level, but action is needed. Upholding the 60-day time limit and handling both victims and perpetrators with respect during and after investigations, are essential. If the University can assert the importance of education on sexual violence, then the same resolve should apply to investigative practices too.