Administration’s response to sexual assault sub-par

Let me begin by stating that I appreciate The Daily Targum's boldness in publishing the article titled, “Rutgers student criticizes University after sexual assault,” and bringing attention to an issue that is not unique to our college campus. I can say that most of the issues I have with this article are not technically based on the writing skills or point of view expressed in the article, but more strictly based on the facts of the case and the realities of our University policies.

I was first floored by the University’s Code of Student Conduct as it pertains to the case –– the primary reason being that the University Code of Student Conduct does not already have an existing legal and working definition for consent pertaining to sexual assault and rape cases. With large, reputable universities under investigation for their processes or lack thereof in these cases, one would think that our administration would deem it necessary to establish this definition. Which brings me to this: Where are these alleged guidelines and procedures that administration felt drew a grey area? Again, I find it odd that these policies are not clear, nor are they publicized. Consider the honor code: Upon all University syllabi there are clear statements about the intolerance of plagiarism — there is even a link provided to where students can find more information of the process that will follow the act of plagiarizing. Where is the urgency to maintain order in public safety as it is reinforced in academia? Administrators admit to not being able to define consent. However, it is imperative to recognize that consent takes on many forms and should be carefully and individually reviewed against a clear definition. So, without a clear set of procedures and definitions, the Code of Student Conduct will continue to prove ineffective.

My largest complaint with the University, however, is their actual response. The administration has neglected to train against victim blaming and bystander intervention. It is discouraging to me as a Douglass Residential College student leader, who fights against sexual assault and rape culture, to witness the Code of Student Conduct and its processes make the victim responsible for the actions of their perpetrator. For it to be stated that the perpetrator would need to be off-campus for the three semesters until his victim graduated, is absolutely mind numbing. It is mind numbing to think that the University would downplay the severity of rape and put other students at risk of victimization by sexual assault and/or rape, feeling as if they did the right thing in doing so.

There is no secret as to why students would not want to go through the processes drafted by the University — their procedures and Code of Student Conduct do not protect the victims or potential victims of sexual assault and rape culture, but instead protects the futures and reputations of the perpetrators as well as discouraging victims from reporting these heinous crimes at all. No two victims or cases are the same and there is no "one size fits all" in persecuting these crimes. But some things should always remain true: victims never ask to be raped, their previous sexual histories should never be under scrutiny and it is never the victim’s fault.

“Now what?” was the question the article asks. The University should ask themselves and students if they are perpetuating a safe environment for students, faculty and staff members. Are their procedural actions condoning sexual assault and rape culture here on campus? What are more appropriate responses and actions to take in cases of sexual assault and rape? Will students ever trust that their University will do right by the victims? And when the University decides to seek these answers, there should be immediate action to turn negative answers into positive ones. I encourage Rutgers University to be on the right side of history, by showing their support and solidarity for the victims and survivors of sexual assault. I have a few suggestions to get them started: get educated about intervening and victim blaming, make procedures fair and transparent and join University students on April 22, 2015 for Take Back the Night, organized by "We Organizing Against Harassment," as we march and rally to end sexual violence in all its forms.

Raven Jenerson is a sophomore in the School of Arts & Sciences majoring in. She is president of the Douglass Governing Council.

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