National Network of Activists Emerges To Improve College Handling of Sex Assault Cases


Frustrated and angry over the handling of sexual assault cases at Occidental College in Los Angeles, a group of students and faculty members have taken the issue to the federal government as a civil rights case, reports the New York Times. Few people had explored this legal terrain, so the Occidental group reached out to women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who had filed a similar complaint – which this month prompted a federal investigation – for insights. The North Carolina group took strategic cues from students who last fall drew attention to the mishandling of sexual assaults at Amherst College in Massachusetts. The Amherst students had, in turn, consulted extensively with women at Yale. In the past year, campaigns against sexual assault on college campuses have produced an informal national network of activists who have learned largely from one another. They see the beginnings of what they hope is a snowball effect, with each high-profile complaint, each assault survivor going public, prompting more people on more campuses to follow suit. Activists contend that colleges fall short in educating students about sexual assault, encouraging victims to seek help, counseling survivors, reporting the frequency of such crimes, and training the people who investigate and adjudicate cases. Advocates for those brought up on charges tend to agree that campus disciplinary systems are amateurish, but they contend that the result is inadequate protection for the rights of the accused.

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