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The Saratoga Falcon

Rape cases: focus should be shifted to preventative measures

If college is feeling more and more like a dangerous place, it’s because of headlines like this one from a recent New York Times issue: “Stanford Ex-Student Denies Rape of Unconscious Woman Outside Frat.”

This alleged rape of a passed out girl occurred on Jan. 30 on the Stanford campus and perpetrated by a freshman swimmer named Brock Turner. Meanwhile, less than a month before, two former Vanderbilt University football stars were convicted for rape and sexual battery for their actions all the way from 2013. Last June, a student at Columbia University was allegedly raped by a fellow student, who still attends the school, leading the victim to carry a mattress around campus to symbolize the school’s indifference to her plight.

Let’s take a step back. It took nearly two years to convict the Vanderbilt students. The rapist in the Columbia incident still goes to the school. And these are just the high-profile cases of recent months..

Needless to say, of the 5 percent or fewer rape cases that are actually reported on a college campus, even those that do reach the authorities are often grossly mishandled.

But for what seems like the first time ever, a college has finally handled a sexual assault case in an appropriate manner. Turner  allegedly raped a fellow student who was intoxicated and later unconscious. In addition to a protective order to stay 100 yards away from the woman for a year, he is permanently banned from the Stanford campus. Turner’s preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place on March 30. He  faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Turner was brought to court on Feb. 2 and pleaded not guilty to one count of rape of an intoxicated person, one count of rape of an unconscious person, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of an intoxicated woman, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object of an unconscious woman and one count of assault with intent to commit rape.

Stanford’s quick and decisive action doesn’t guarantee the same response from higher authorities. We still have no way to know if they finally realized that punishment is only just, or if they’ll let Turner off scot-free.

This speaks to a greater problem regarding the treatment of rape. With our current policies and students’ inclination toward severe drinking on college campuses, rape cases are bound to go unpunished and ignored. There are many state universities and schools that have come under fire for not adequately reporting sexual assaults. This list includes top-tier schools like Amherst, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale.

These omissions are a major issue. If a school demands a yearly tuition hovering above $50,000, students should be safe from sexual assault.

Often, these schools don’t want to tarnish their reputation by admitting to a patterns of rapes on campus. But what they fail to realize and address is that ignoring these cases makes them look even worse.

The Stanford administration managed to take decisive action quickly. This should set an example to all other colleges to follow. They didn’t try to cover up anything, but instead they stood by their security policies and didn’t hesitate to expel the student. That being said, it won’t be much of a surprise if Turner is let off with no other punishment.

That is an issue that needs to be fixed in the criminal justice system. As for colleges, Stanford’s actions should be a template for the way colleges should aim to handle sexual assaults.

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