Educational Institutions Cover Up True Extent of Sexual Violence on Campus

By Wendy Cooper
Wendy Cooper
Wendy Cooper
Wendy Cooper holds a law degree and lives in Michigan but dreams of becoming a California gal. She has written articles for the American Bar Association Health Care section, the Ann Arbor News, and online blogs. She can be reached at her Facebook page or on Twitter @WendyBCooper. She also writes for www.quietmike.org.
May 15, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Educational Institutions are systematically working to cover-up the sheer numbers of sexual assault victims. Recently there have been a number of stories surface about colleges and public grade schools that have failed to respond to complaints by victims of sexual assault on their campuses. Taken in the aggregate the stories paint a troubling picture of denial and lack of justice for victims.

Earlier this month the Federal Government announced a list of 55 universities that are under investigation for their handling of sexual abuse complaints. The investigation is focused on the alleged treatment of the sexual assault victims and/or the covering up of the allegations. While not mentioning the details of the complaints specifically it paints a troubling picture of the treatment of victims versus their attackers.

The University of Michigan is one of the schools under investigation by the Department of Education (DOE). The school has been accused of failing to respond promptly and fairly to any complaints of sexual assault or sexual harassment on campus. Specifically, a recent case involving a football player, who was a star kicker, is mentioned in the report. The alleged incident took place in November 2009, but no action was taken against the player until more than four years later, in December 2013, when he was “permanently separated” from the university under a school policy, the Michigan Daily reported last month.

In another allegation, Harvard students filed a formal complaint against the school claiming the school failed to take reports of sexual assault seriously. In some cases, the students allege, the “victims of sexual assault were being forced to live in the same dorm with their alleged assailant.”

The under reporting or covering up of sexual assaults on campus is not limited to higher education. Troubling reports reveal an effort by school administrators to silence students when it comes to talking about sexual assault.

A South Carolina student, Gracie Holtzclaw, was one of the young artists selected to display her work at the Greenville County Schools Art Exhibition this month. However, after submitting her art, she was informed that “Rape Culture” wouldn’t be permitted to appear in the show. According to a district spokesperson “this piece, for both title and content, was determined to be inappropriate for the District Show.” The reason given for the rejection was that “the artwork is on display during a community event and can be viewed by small children.”

More troubling is a report out of West Virginia where two boys repeatedly sexually assaulted girls at their school, but school administrators helped them to cover up the assault by punishing their victims and obstructing a law enforcement investigation, according to an injunction filed in a West Virginia court. Multiple girls’ reported that they were “subjected to repeated incidents of sexual abuse and/or assault by two fellow male students.” The injunction also states that “they (the girls) were then threatened with discipline and/or retaliated against by members of the Burch Middle School administration when each pursued punishment for the offenders.” The boys were well aware of their immunity from punishment, according to the complaint. One victim alleges that after a particular incident where she threatened to report the boys, one said to the other, “don’t worry, [your relative] will take care of us.”

When taken as a whole the number of cases where schools have attempted to cover up reports of sexual assault or punished the victims it paints a bleak picture. It sends a message to the victims that, not only will they not be taken seriously; they face additional punishment for being a victim of sexual assault. Sexual violence is becoming a normal part of young women’s lives. By allowing this culture of aiding the assaulter to continue society is creating a hostile environment that minimizes the true damage of sexual assault. Victims should never fear reporting sexual assault and perpetrators should never be allowed to think that they can get away with the crime.    

Wendy Cooper
Wendy Cooper holds a law degree and lives in Michigan but dreams of becoming a California gal. She has written articles for the American Bar Association Health Care section, the Ann Arbor News, and online blogs. She can be reached at her Facebook page or on Twitter @WendyBCooper. She also writes for www.quietmike.org.