Thanks to an article on People.com, I learned about a documentary called The Hunting Ground, an insight into the epidemic that is rape and sexual assault on college campuses.
It was so well done. I loved how it went from dark and depressed and painful to slowly building up to empowerment and resilience and the survivors and allies starting a movement for change.
But mostly, it just made me sick. It made me sick to see how colleges and universities have made victim-blaming the norm, how they've chosen to protect their image and reputation for future students and their donations instead of protecting their students from predators. Their lack of concern for victims and their atrocious investigative and adjudicative processes are horrifying. You wouldn't believe some of the "punishments" schools have come up with: one-day suspensions, $25 fines, writing a paper, 50 hours of community service at a sexual assault crisis center...Here was my favorite one: "expulsion upon graduation". UPON GRADUATION. There was one girl who had a written confession from the guy who assaulted her, and her school said it still wasn't enough. The documentary had shots of statistics of various schools comparing their number of reported sexual assaults and the number of suspensions/expulsions. One school (I don't remember which) had 0 expulsions for sexual assault but 183 for other violations of the honor code. It's so unbelievable you kind of forget for a minute that you're dealing with real life.
I didn't really want to punch something, though, until it got to the section on student-athletes and how even more protected they are. Yes, I know that the vast majority of student-athletes are good people and not sexual predators - the documentary acknowledges that, as well - but the ones who are can practically get away with murder if they're good on a field. One Notre Dame football player was under investigation for sexual assault, but the school claimed "they couldn't find him" despite the fact that he played two home games before they finally "found him". Apparently, they have a rule that campus police are not allowed to go to the athletic facility to find a player or use anyone on the athletics staff to help them...I wish I were kidding. These players get accused of awful assaults and rapes, but if they're good on a court or field, that apparently makes them untouchable. Worse yet is when you see fans online attacking accusers because they dared to call out these "good guy" players. A girl is raped or assaulted, and yet she is pretty much run out of school, or even the city, because she says that her attacker is someone on a sports team.
Case in point: Erica Kinsman. She was "allegedly" (apparently I'm supposed to put that since he was never charged or convicted) raped by Jameis Winston, former Florida State and current Tampa Bay QB, yet because the cop who originally interviewed her in the hospital as he saw bruises appearing on her body was an FSU alum and worked for an organization that fundraised for FSU athletics, she wasn't taken seriously and was basically asked if she was "really sure" she wanted to press charges because she would probably be run out of Tallahassee if she accused the QB who was leading FSU football, eventually to a national championship. It took them nearly a year to do ANYTHING on her case; in the meantime, another girl came forward as his victim, he got in more legal trouble, and he won the freaking Heisman Trophy. An award meant to be given to an athlete who works with integrity was given to a guy with rape accusations against him. Her rape kit wasn't processed for nearly a year, and then the prosecuting attorney decided there "wasn't enough evidence" even when the rape kit came back as a match to Winston. And here's the kicker - guess the reason FSU decided they wouldn't investigate any further....because Winston refused to answer any of their questions. Now Winston is claiming he's going to sue CNN for showing this documentary, and I seriously hope that he does because the whole world needs to see what he's gotten away with. It doesn't take a genius to listen to and look at Erica as she tells her story to know that she's not just some fame whore looking to go after "Jameis Christ"...yes, an FSU fan actually called him that in the documentary. She is a girl who was violated and attacked by this guy, and then violated all over again by a school and a city who refused to believe or help her.
Someone I know was raped. She was treated just like the girls in this documentary were treated - like she was making it up, like she had gotten too drunk, like she screwed up somehow. So yeah, this is really personal to me, because I've seen what it does to someone. That leads me to ask a few questions.
Where is our humanity?! When did people stop being more important than money and reputations? Why do schools get to decide if someone was actually raped or not? Why is sexual assault the only crime in which victims get blamed?
But seriously, where the hell is our humanity? With everything that's going on in the world today, a lot of Americans act like we're the greatest thing in the world and take such great care of our own, but all you have to do is listen to this group of young women and men (because don't you dare say it doesn't happen to men, too) talk about how they were treated when they sought justice for their assault, and you'll see that we have some big problems in taking care of our own. Because not only do we not address this massive problem, most people even refuse to admit that it's a problem! And that is how rapists get away with it and repeat offenders get to walk around campuses terrifying their victims sometimes without even saying a word.
Can someone please explain to me how freshman girls can get raped before their first semester of classes even begins and it goes unnoticed? How a girl can commit suicide after being raped by basketball players and her school says nothing? How a school can actually find a person guilty of the assault and then not even tell the victims that the appeals process had happened and they had decided to overturn the decision until it was all over? How MULTIPLE studies can show that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college and no school seems to care enough to do something to change that statistic?
Yes, it's great that some presidents like Drew Faust of Harvard have come out and acknowledged this issue and apologized to their present and former students, but that is not enough. Something has to change. What will it take? I'm scared to find out.