Claire Barclay, Lynn Barclay: Stronger campus response needed to combat rape

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
To the editor:

Thank you for your May 10/11 front-page, above-the-fold coverage of rape on campus. Kudos to Lena Sclove for having the courage to publicly and repeatedly tell the horrifying story of her rape by a fellow student at Brown University.

While it is huge that this hidden issue is finally getting so much coverage, nationally and locally, we fear that the solutions being proposed fall far short of what is needed. At UMass, for example, the focus of their anti-rape campaign is advising women and bystanders to use “direct,” “distract,” and “delegate” techniques to prevent sexual assault.

Why do we continue to put the burden on women to avoid being sexually assaulted?

Rapists are criminals, whether they are college students or not. Rapists are repeaters, whether they are college students or not. We must insist that campus rapists are aggressively prosecuted for their behaviors until they learn that sexual assault will not be tolerated — anywhere.

Students and other members of the campus community need to know — before an event occurs — what to expect in the wake of sexual assault. To whom should these crimes be reported? Alarmingly, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that just 12 percent of college victims report their sexual assault to law enforcement officials.

College administrators nationwide admit that they are unclear as to what steps to take when campus rape is reported to them.

In Sclove’s case, she reports that Brown discouraged her from reporting the rape to law enforcement. Instead, the college dealt with it as a violation of the student conduct code and the rapist was suspended for one year.

Rape is a serious violent crime. It is not a college infraction. Colleges need new policies that make it clear to all concerned that all cases of sexual assault will be reported immediately to the city police. Prompt reporting to the city police allows for proper evidence collection and better chance of successful prosecution.

We need a campus campaign directed at would-be rapists that says, “Rape is a crime. You will be prosecuted. Your college career will end.”

Claire Barclay, Lynn Barclay