More victims of sexual assault in colleges and universities are going public, more of them are filing formal federal complaints, and a new network of activists is making shrewd use of the law and the media, reports the New York Times. Last week, a White House task force recommended practices for measuring the problem, educating students and treating both accuser and accused. While there is scant evidence that sexual assault is more or less prevalent than in the past, the storm of attention has forced university administrators to pay more attention to a largely unfamiliar set of duties, more akin to social work and criminal justice than to education.
It has exposed what many experts now say is clear, that higher education has done a poor job of understanding the shifts and responding to them. Some experts say women's participation in the culture of college binge drinking has made them more vulnerable, but advocates say it is a short walk from that to blaming victims. “It just hasn't been on most university administrators' agendas; they don't know how to approach it, and they just haven't taken the time to be informed,” said criminologist Bonnie Fisher of the University of Cincinnati. “It's just another issue on their desks that they're hoping doesn't cause a loss of students or bad media attention.”