Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Activism Has Changed the Way Universities Deal with Rape on Campus

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Activism Has Changed the Way Universities Deal with Rape on Campus

Article excerpt

New statistics on reported rapes on university campuses released by the Department of Education might look, on first glance, damning for the schools with the highest numbers. Considerable prestige is on the line: two Ivy Leagues (Brown University and Dartmouth College) and another school known as a bastion of left-leaning politics (Wesleyan University) figure among the top five.

But advocates caution that the new federal stats only tell part of the story.

"It's important to remember that the statistics aren't reflective of actual rates, just crimes reported to campus authorities or security, and only around campus," says Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center, a campus-security organization, in a phone interview.

In fact, she adds, campuses with a higher number of incidents logged might simply be taking a more proactive approach to the issue.

"These campuses are the ones I'm more intrigued at looking at if I send my child to school, because it means campuses are coming forward and reporting," says Kiss. "It's not an easy feat."

A number of variables skew the meaning of the stats. First, students have to file a report with their university. According to a 2015 study conducted by the Association of American Universities, that happens in only 28 percent of serious incidents. Second, the university has to report it. And if the student turns to a campus counselor, where conversations are confidential, the counselor isn't obligated to turn in a report to be filed with the rest of complaints on campus.

The data reflects the uneven successes of campus activists who in recent years have pushed universities to respond more aggressively to sexual crimes on campus. In returning the issue to the national spotlight, they've built on a framework pioneered by feminists in the late 1980s, who battled to change Americans' very notions of rape. …

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