Parents who send their teen-age daughters to college for the first time have a worry lurking in a back corner of their minds: Some students are brutally raped -- even gang-raped -- and many more suffer unwanted groping, stalking, catcalls, online slander, date coercion and other sexual affronts. Campus drinking or doping are a strong factor. Most victims don't report assaults because they feel shame or guilt -- and some suffer ugly psychological after-effects.
During his State of the Union address last week, President Obama announced that a federal task force has 90 days to draft more protections for students. He said young men must learn to respect girls and young women.
"An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, and that's totally unacceptable," Obama said at a different assembly. " ... Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And for survivors, the awful pain can take years, even decades, to heal. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime."
A federal report titled "The Sexual Victimization of College Women" estimates: "The women at a college that has 10,000 female students could experience more than 350 rapes a year." Since West Virginia University has 30,000 students, more than half female, its assault total could exceed 500 annually.
Back in 1998, Congress passed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act, named for a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm room by a fellow student. It requires campus police to disclose all cases publicly, and prosecute them. But college leaders cringe at disclosure, trying to hide dangers.
A couple of years ago, The Gazette reported two cases at Marshall University, both involving intoxicated girls, in which campus police avoided disclosure.
The Chicago Tribune reported that, across U.S. society at large, one-fourth of rape reports result in arrests, and two-thirds of those end with convictions. But on college campuses, only one complaint in 14 produces an arrest, and only one-third of suspects are convicted.
Yale and other major universities have been plagued by this curse, and are seeking cures.We agree with President Obama: Campus rape and abuse are a disturbing American blight. Every possible step to protect girls must be imposed.