Sexual assault case prompts pushback

By: Hannah Sgambellone ~Staff Writer~

As a result of the Brock Turner controversy, there has been a push to raise awareness of sexual assault. However, additional campaigns advocating for the rights of those accused of committing sexual assault have popped up as well.

Recently, a conservative nonprofit called Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) issued a proposal for the removal of university guidelines for rape and sexual assault, stating the specific guidelines infringe upon the rights of those accused of sexual assault.

Photo courtesy of | Kate Lawson, Title IX Director.

However, the FBI estimates that less than 10 percent of reported sexual assaults are false accusations.

SAVE analyzed 30 cases of rape that they alleged were mishandled by the universities at which they occurred.

One of these cases occurred at Xavier.

The SAVE study claimed that institutional guidelines, such as assuming that the victim’s account of the attack was the correct one, were what led to the mishandling of these cases.

Attorney Eric Rosenberg also cites a lack of resources and preferential female treatment as a source for this issue against people who may have been falsely accused of sexual assault.

“The pendulum has swung so far that universities have determined that victim complainants are females who must receive preferential treatment in part because of pressure from the federal government and the general public,” Rosenberg said.

It is estimated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center that up to 90 percent of on-campus rape cases go unreported by victims.

This statistic doesn’t include people raped in other settings.

It is estimated that one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, while one in four will be molested or sexually assaulted according to the Huffington Post.

These statistics are no different for Xavier or the Cincinnati area.

According to the Enquirer, rape cases in Hamilton County are higher than the state and national averages, with the number of victims reportedly increasing by 60 percent over the last three years.

Over the last four years, Xavier has made strides in preventing and educating students on what sexual assault looks like and how to prevent it.

During that time, the number of sexual assault cases reported has increased by 47 percent, though this increase is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Gender-based violence (one form of sex discrimination) is a public health epidemic, impacting far too many students’ lives,” Title IX Officer Kate Lawson said. “However, although we are all working to change these dynamics and are making significant strides in positively impacting them, reporting of gender-based violence has historically been strikingly and problematically low.”

Lawson believes that the increase in reports is a sign that the Xavier community is better educated about the importance of reporting sexual assault as opposed to perpetuating the stigma against reporting.

“We are seeing that our efforts here as a community of students, staff and faculty, to bring down those barriers to reporting, reject victim blame and social stigma, educate the campus community about what gender-based violence is and empower students experiencing it to seek assistance are working,” Lawson said. “An increase in reports to a university does not mean gender-based violence is happening more. It means students are able to identify what has happened to them as wrong, know who to report to and feel comfortable doing so. That’s a very good thing.”

In continuing education and advocacy, students can hope to eliminate cases of sexual violence in their own lives and hopefully begin to erase the harmful culture of rape that affects everyone.