Sexual assault on campus used to be something few people talked about, but not because it wasn’t happening. It’s estimated that one in five college students is sexually assaulted. Too often victims don’t get help and alleged perpetrators are never charged. But this may change: the Violence Against Women Act includes a provision to address sexual assault on campus. And activists are increasingly using social media to connect with each other and share information on how Title IX of the Civil Rights Act can be applied to college rape cases.


  • Diane Rosenfeld Law professor, Harvard University.
  • Daniel Rappaport Sexual assault prevention coordinator, American University.
  • Laura Dunn Student activist and law student, University of Maryland.
  • Kristen Lombardi Investigative reporter, Center for Public Integrity.


  • 11:06:56

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. College students across the country say universities fail to help victims of sexual assault on campus. Now through Facebook and other social media, students are advising each other on how to hold colleges accountable. Here with me to talk about sexual assaults on campus is Diane Rosenfeld of the Harvard University Law School, Laura Dunn, a sexual assault survivor and student advocate, and Daniel Rappaport. He's a sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University.

  • 11:07:37

    MS. DIANE REHMDo join in our conversation by calling us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.

  • 11:07:54

    MS. DIANE ROSENFELDGood morning.

  • 11:07:54

    MS. LAURA DUNNGood morning.

  • 11:07:54

    MR. DANIEL RAPPAPORTGood morning.

  • 11:07:56

    REHMDaniel, if I could start with you, you're the sexual assault prevention coordinator for American University and of course, American University owns the license for WAMU where we are broadcasting from. Talk about what's supposed to happen when a case of sexual assault is reported to you or someone in your office.

  • 11:08:28

    RAPPAPORTAbsolutely, in my role, I'm actually granted confidentiality as a victim advocate so if someone comes to me, I don't have to automatically report, but if someone reports a sexual assault to anyone on campus who does not have confidentiality, then that individual, the staff person would have to report up to the Title IX coordinator.

  • 11:08:52

    RAPPAPORTIf someone wanted to report, then they could report directly to public safety. They could report directly to our dean of students or to our student conduct. But no matter who they report to, if that person is not confidential, then our Title IX coordinator has to be informed.

  • 11:09:11

    REHMOkay, explain how the Title IX coordinator gets involved and how does that affect the entire reporting situation.

  • 11:09:23

    RAPPAPORTAbsolutely, it's a sensitive process on all universities, particularly American University. We try to do our best to ensure that all survivors are aware of all of their options and aware of the process that will take place. If a student, even speaking to their residence assistants at American University, reports that they experienced a sexual assault, they are able to report to their supervisor who reports to the Title IX coordinator.

  • 11:09:55

    RAPPAPORTWhen the Title IX coordinator receives that information, then they reach out for an initial contact to the survivor and ask for them to come in to meet with them. And the purpose of that initial meeting is just to provide them with options and information.

  • 11:10:10

    REHMWhat kinds of options?

  • 11:10:13

    RAPPAPORTIn terms of moving forward with the process, allowing someone to understand the student conduct process, if they chose to do that, to be aware of off-campus options, whether it's through local law enforcement or just engaging with community resources, but also for on campus options, which could be a no-contact order. It could be changing classes, even professors, moving rooms if they're in a residence hall together.

  • 11:10:45

    REHMAnd how has Title IX affected the entire process?

  • 11:10:52

    RAPPAPORTSure, Title IX, released with a dear colleague letter. When that came out, that really helped us feel more confident in what we were doing, but also obviously provided some additional guidelines which would include how the Title IX coordinator is trained and who has to report. Other than that, we already thankfully at American University had done a lot of things which the dear colleague letter instructed universities to do.

  • 11:11:27

    ROSENFELDAnd Diane, if I can...

  • 11:11:28

    REHMCertainly, please go right ahead.

  • 11:11:31

    ROSENFELDSo in response to your question about how Title IX interacts with all this, this is all happening because you have a civil right to equal access to educational opportunities on campus under Title IX. And people are just starting to really understand that, but that's been in play for a long time so it's very important to realize that it's a different context.

  • 11:11:53

    ROSENFELDWe're talking about campus sexual assault, which usually occurs between two acquaintances, but we're not talking about it in the criminal justice system. Certainly there's an overlap, but schools have a responsibility to prevent a hostile environment on which they have notice.

  • 11:12:12

    ROSENFELDSo they have to do particular things, as Daniel said, that were laid out very clearly in the dear colleague letter and now most of which have been encoded in the Campus Sexual Assault Violence Elimination Act.

  • 11:12:25

    REHMYou have both referred to this so-called dear colleague letter. Diane Rosenfeld is professor of law at Harvard University. Explain that dear colleague letter.

  • 11:12:39

    ROSENFELDThe dear colleague letter was issued by Russlyn Ali who just recently left the Department of Education. She was the assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights. And the Department of Education is the enforcement arm for Title IX and she clearly laid out what schools' obligations and responsibilities are on Title IX to prevent and address campus sexual assault.

  • 11:13:05

    ROSENFELDAnd Vice President Joe Biden came to the University of New Hampshire on April 4, 2011 to personally announce and publicize this very, very important guidance. And like I said, most of this guidance has now been encoded in this new act, which is part of the recently signed Violence Against Women Act.

  • 11:13:25

    REHMDiane Rosenfeld, professor of law at Harvard University School of Law, Daniel Rappaport, he's sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University. And now turning to you, Laura Dunn, can you explain to us what happened to you and what the university did as a result?

  • 11:13:53

    DUNNYes, when I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, I was sexually assaulted in spring semester. Like many students, I didn't know what to do at first. I blamed myself and I stayed silent and about half a year later, there was this amazing educational program on campus that talked about alcohol-facilitated sexual assault and I knew at that moment that it wasn't my fault and that I could do something about it.

  • 11:14:16

    DUNNUnfortunately, I thought there was only the criminal process and I didn't think there was enough evidence. But a year after that, I finally was told that the university itself had a process and that was back in about 2006 that I finally reported my assault. And I went through the process. The university did not give me justice and I ended up filing a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education against the university.

  • 11:14:38

    REHMAnd how did that affect the situation?

  • 11:14:43

    DUNNThe Department of Education initially rejected my claim because the assault technically happened off-campus. So my assault happened before the Title IX guidance so many things have improved since then.

  • 11:14:55

    DUNNI did have assistance in filing an appeal. The Department of Education did take this on finding that there was still a hostile environment. The two men who assaulted me were both members of my crew team. I had to see them on campus. So they did investigate. It took about two years and by that time, I had already graduated.

  • 11:15:11

    DUNNThey did not find in my favor, but at that time, that was not unusual. In the past, the Department of Education really would rubberstamp. A lot of the efforts at universities were taken and that's why that guidance is so important that came out in 2011.

  • 11:15:22

    DUNNIt really looked at all these stories of all these victims being denied justice and then having that reinforced by the Department of Education and it took steps to change that process and really shame universities for doing what they did. In my case, they waited until one of the men graduated.

  • 11:15:36

    DUNNIt took nine months to investigate him, only to say that there was nothing they were going to do. And by that point, they lost jurisdiction over him. And so I couldn't appeal, I couldn't ask for anything else and my case was just over.

  • 11:15:49

    REHMNow Diane, if that were to happen, God forbid, to Laura today, what would the difference in approach be?

  • 11:16:01

    ROSENFELDThe difference is that now we are at a pivotal moment in enforcement of women's civil rights on campus to be free from a sexually-hostile environment and she would be. She has the right. The three complements of this are mandatory preventative education, which schools are very well situated to do. It's what we do best at schools, is educate.

  • 11:16:25

    ROSENFELDReally strong support services for survivors, which is where Daniel comes in, so having an office and a great advocate like Daniel to help a survivor move through the system and get whatever academic support she needs, get counseling and enable her to continue to access educational opportunities instead of having to take the semester off or just enabling her as much as possible and avoiding any re-traumatization which includes seeing an assailant because that's a hostile environment.

  • 11:16:57

    ROSENFELDBut the third and very important thing that schools really need to do is to roll up their sleeves, face and figure out prompt and equitable adjudication, which is now required. It was always required, but now it's very clearly, under the new federal law. And prompt and equitable means to me in the same semester and equitable means that she would have rights to be heard and the assailants would have suffered consequences and probably have been dismissed from school.

  • 11:17:28

    REHMSo the fact of the matter is you had no ultimate satisfaction, Laura, in your situation, but in effect became a pioneer?

  • 11:17:44

    DUNNYes, actually my story was used by the Center for Public Integrity, along with many other stories, to highlight both that universities were failing victims on campus, were delaying judicial processes or even when they found that a sexual assault had occurred, giving just a slap on the wrist, such as a summer semester suspension, a meaningless action.

  • 11:18:04

    DUNNAnd along with that, and in particular my case, they kind of showed how Title IX was a process that victims could use and how, unfortunately, the Department of Education had not been enforcing the standards against universities so my kind of horror story, my denial of justice actually really woke up the nation and influenced the Title IX guidance that was released. So if there is any justice from what happened to me, it's definitely that that was passed.

  • 11:18:28

    REHMLaura Dunn, she's a student activist and student of law at the University of Maryland. Daniel Rappaport, he's sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University and Diane Rosenfeld, professor of law at Harvard University.

  • 11:20:05

    REHMJoining us now as we talk about rape on college campuses and new laws, new rules, new regulations, and new services in place for victims of sexual assault is Kristen Lombardi. She's with the Center for Public Integrity. She joins us by phone from her office in New York. She was the lead reporter on a year-long investigative series produced in partnership with NPR about sexual assault on campus. Thanks for joining us, Kristen.

  • 11:20:49

    MS. KRISTEN LOMBARDIThank you, Diane.

  • 11:20:50

    REHMTalk about what your investigation aimed to do.

  • 11:20:56

    LOMBARDIWell, this investigation, the seeds of it were planted way back in 2008. Late 2008 and early 2009 is when we really set out to examine how colleges handle sexual assault cases, how do they respond to allegations of sexual assault, how are they adjudicating complaints when they're filed. We had heard, you know, individual cases on campuses and we were trying to get beyond those isolated cases.

  • 11:21:32

    LOMBARDIYou make, you know, have seen cases making headlines, often involving high profile student athletes or influential student leaders. And we wanted to get beyond sort of these isolated cases on individual campuses and try to figure out how to connect the dots, see larger commonalities and trends that might suggest systemic problems. And so, we, you know, took a very methodical approach.

  • 11:22:03

    LOMBARDIWe interviewed dozens of people who are familiar with this process and with the campus -- with this problem and with the campus adjudicatory process in particular, including 50 college officials. We interviewed 33 female students who reported to schools being sexually assaulted by fellow students. One of them was Laura. We chronicled their cases. We examined their case records. We surveyed 152 crisis service programs and clinics on campuses across the country.

  • 11:22:39


  • 11:22:40

    LOMBARDIAnd we examined 10 years worth of complaints filed by students against schools with the Education Department.

  • 11:22:43

    REHMWow. And...

  • 11:22:49

    LOMBARDIBut this was all attempt to try to connect the dots.

  • 11:22:52

    REHMYes. And I gather what you found was something of a culture of silence. Talk about that, if you would.

  • 11:23:03

    LOMBARDIWe did find a culture of silence. I mean, we found -- I think we found a lot of troubling aspects to the process. But one of those aspects with the process was sort of enshrouded in secrecy. Students who went through the process often encountered very mystifying disciplinary proceedings. Sometimes student victims weren't even allowed to attend their own hearings. They were considered witnesses and were not allowed to actually sit through the entire process.

  • 11:23:36

    LOMBARDIThey often face sort of off-the-record negotiations or mediation sessions, which the Education Department, even when we were investigating this series, had already deemed illegal and improper in these cases. And they often were subjected to gag orders, told not to talk about their cases with anybody. You know, students took it so seriously that they didn't even speak with their parents about it.

  • 11:24:01

    LOMBARDISo that was one aspect of the process that we found really less students feeling re-victimized, as we speak.

  • 11:24:12

    REHMSure, sure. And why don't women or men who been sexually assaulted go directly to the police if their own university does not respond?

  • 11:24:30

    LOMBARDIWell, actually we found the majority of students that we interviewed did go to the police. They were seeking justice through the criminal justice system and often found the campus judicial system was the last resort. Laura was one of those students who tried to file charges and really was...

  • 11:25:00


  • 11:25:01

    LOMBARDIThe case was not pursued by district attorneys.

  • 11:25:04

    REHMYeah, yeah.

  • 11:25:06

    LOMBARDIThat was, we found a common problem. District attorneys have to prove sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt. And in campus judicial cases, the typical case is a situation that involves two people who know each in some fashion. Maybe they share a dorm hall together or a class together. They know each other. These cases often amount to he said, she said accounts.

  • 11:25:34

    REHMSure, sure.

  • 11:25:35

    LOMBARDIWhere physical evidence is rare. Eyewitness testimony is rare. And alcohol or drugs can very much complicate these cases. So for district attorneys, we found the criminal justice system doesn't often pursue these cases. And...

  • 11:25:52

    REHMAnd finally, finally, Kristen, to what extent do you think the Department of Education is now making the difference?

  • 11:26:05

    LOMBARDIWell, I think there's been a huge, almost sea change in the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. And that office's response to these cases -- when we did our series, we reviewed 10 years worth of completed Office for Civil Rights investigations into student complaints. And we found that OCR findings with Title IX violations were the exception rather than the rule in cases, alleging mishandling of sexual assault proceedings.

  • 11:26:38

    LOMBARDIThe office almost never found violations of Title IX, meaning they never found a school had violated a student's civil rights in adjudicating these cases. And even when it did, it very rarely punish the schools. We also found that the office had taken, you know, more of a reactive approach in that it responded only when a student filed complaint. And a student filing a complaint at that time was very, very rare. Over those 10 years, we only found 200 complaints filed. And the majority of them were for sexual harassment as opposed to sexual assault.

  • 11:27:28

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:27:30

    LOMBARDINow, the Education Department is taking more of a proactive approach and is launching what they call compliance reviews. If a school makes -- if a case makes headlines, for instance, the Office for Civil Rights will audit a school's policies and procedures. It doesn't have to wait for a student to file a complaint.

  • 11:27:55

    REHMAll right. Kristen Lombardi, she's an investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 11:28:08

    LOMBARDIThank you, Diane.

  • 11:28:10

    REHMAnd, Laura, going back to your own situation, how did the Department of Education respond to your complaint when you put it forward?

  • 11:28:23

    DUNNAs I said, initially, they rejected it because of the technicality that the physical assault had happened directly off-campus. It didn't matter that it was less than a block, that many students lived in the area and that there's two men on my crew team, both students as well as I, that were involved in the situation. When they did investigate and after my appeal was successful, they took two years. And they really, basically, at that time, just took the university's word.

  • 11:28:49

    DUNNThey looked through those emails and kind of just said, well, you know, they put forth some effort. They talked to some people. But they only talked to one of the two men that assaulted me. They never talked to the first person that I've reported it to. So I really didn't think the Department of Education did a thorough job. And I know that they didn't interview me until much later in the process. So at that time, the Department of Education was not doing a great job reviewing.

  • 11:29:13

    REHMBut now, Diane, things have changed a lot.

  • 11:29:15

    ROSENFELDNow. That's just what I was going to say is I think it's useful to look forward, because if schools were confused about their obligations, now they have real clarifications about how to address this. And they can educate. And like Laura's story showed us, she was in a class and one of her professors was telling her about it, and then she realized she was sexually assaulted.

  • 11:29:39

    ROSENFELDWe need, and now will have, this mandatory preventative education programs where students, as soon as they get to campus, are told of their rights on campus and told that sexual assault will not be tolerated on campus. And that if anybody is accused of it, there will be consequences.

  • 11:29:57

    REHMSo, Daniel, what impact did these particular guidelines have on you, as a coordinator on the American University on the whole culture on the campus?

  • 11:30:12

    RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. And to echo what Diane is already saying, improved education. Thankfully, at American University we are already doing a whole lot of education, including orientations. So immediately when students -- before students even come for their first day, we're already starting to train them and to educate them not only about their rights but about sexual violence, dating violence and stalking to try to really open their eyes to a lot of new things. And most students aren't taught prior coming to college.

  • 11:30:42

    REHMAnd, Laura, I want to ask you because the whole issue of parents and their reactions was raised. How did or did they not -- how did your parents help you during this period?

  • 11:31:01

    DUNNI won't go into the details a lot. But I will say that they were not supportive initially. And a lot of victims that I've talked to feel that same way. They're afraid of how their parents react. I do have a very religious household. And so, initially, I was kind of blamed for this. And, you know, I did blame myself as well. We do have a culture that blames victims for this rather than holds perpetrators accountable.

  • 11:31:22

    DUNNBut over time, my parents did become more supportive. My mother is actually the person that encouraged me to go to the papers. My sisters told me there's no shame, go ahead put my full name and that they would support me. My parents very much championing me. You've mentioned a lot, the Title IX guidance. I think it's important for listeners to know the guidance isn't law. That's just something the Department of Education is going to follow.

  • 11:31:43

    DUNNAnd so that can change with time as different people come into the department. What's really important is just this last year the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act incorporated parts of the Title IX guidance to the Campus Save Act. And actually I was one of the individuals that used my story to specifically lobby for that. One of the things that I have tried to do with my story and all those experiences is to turn what was a tragedy into legal change.

  • 11:32:08

    DUNNNot just education and awareness, which are very important components, but there needs to be stronger guidelines, there needs to be more accountability for universities. And so, now, there is a federal law that takes this guidance and puts teeth into it. So universities are obligated to have this education. It's not just suggested in the guideline.

  • 11:32:26

    REHMNow, Daniel, during the break, you were saying that one of your responsibilities as a coordinator is to step in and help that person with parents. How do you do that?

  • 11:32:46

    RAPPAPORTSure, absolutely. I can help a survivor who comes to me in any way that they need. If their parents aren't supportive, if their friends aren't supportive, I can offer them a conversation as long as the survivor signs a release, I could speak to whomever they wish. And very often, parents are not as supportive as a survivor may want. And even more, a survivor often comes in and are afraid of their reaction.

  • 11:33:11

    RAPPAPORTSo a lot of the work on my end can even just be helping a survivor navigate conversations with their parents and navigate conversations with their friends, so that they can create a really strong support network.

  • 11:33:23

    REHMAnd you're to "The Diane Rehm Show." Laura, I'm so sorry you've had this experience and I'm especially sad that your parents did not support you at the outset. I'm going to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Raleigh, NC. Good morning, Neil, you're on the air.

  • 11:33:53

    NEILHi, Diane. Let me echo your sympathies to Laura. I'm a parent and I can only imagine that her parents' first response was really based on their frustration and not being able to protect their beautiful daughter. But moving on from that, I have a question really about what constitutes sexual assault and does that include sexual aggressiveness? I warned my son when he went off to college that, you know, nowadays, you know, a girl will walk up to you and try and unzip your pants.

  • 11:34:26

    NEILAnd then you just have -- you just can't put yourself in situations, he's on an academic scholarship and he can lose it if he was accused of something. So what constitutes sexual assault and what are universities doing about sexual aggressiveness?

  • 11:34:40

    REHMDiane Rosenfeld.

  • 11:34:41

    ROSENFELDEvery school can define sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and they have to also incorporate, by reference, their state statute in making their policies under the new law.

  • 11:34:53

    REHMYou're saying that there's not one clear definition. You're saying each university has its own?

  • 11:35:02

    ROSENFELDEach university is obligated its state definition. And criminal law is a matter of state law. This is not -- there's not a federal definition. Well, there is a federal definition that they have follow. Actually it's the definition under the Violence Against Women Act, under the new Campus SaVE Act. So it's unwanted sexual contact in its various forms.

  • 11:35:22

    REHMRight. So...

  • 11:35:22

    ROSENFELDAnd I thought that Neil was going to say that his son by having somebody walk up and give him unwanted sexual contact would be assaulted but he kind of turned that around in an interesting way. I want to make a point about parents...

  • 11:35:37

    REHMBut, hold on a minute, what are you saying to Neil? What would you say to Neil, Daniel?

  • 11:35:46

    RAPPAPORTI would definitely echo what Diane was just saying that it sounded like the story that Neil was saying was that his son, under that circumstance, would feel that he was being violated.

  • 11:35:57


  • 11:35:57

    RAPPAPORTAnd that is sexual aggressiveness. But it did sound like he was turning that around and suggesting that if his son were then to act on that, that the woman may then accuse him of sexual assault, which is an extraordinary problem because people assume that women come forward or falsely accuse very often, which is entirely untrue. As we have heard throughout the show so far, coming forward is the opposite of an easy process. We don't particularly have an overwhelming support of culture. And...

  • 11:36:29

    REHMSo, let me ask our caller, Neil, what did your son do?

  • 11:36:35

    NEILWell, actually he didn't do anything. I was really warning him about the environment and the, you know, alcohol is frequently involved.

  • 11:36:45


  • 11:36:45

    NEILAnd things are happening today that didn't happen or happened maybe less 50 years ago. I mean, all you have to do is look at the YouTube depiction of campus parties.

  • 11:36:56


  • 11:36:59

    NEILAnd there's a great deal of sexual aggressiveness on, traditionally, on the men's side. And now, more frequently, I think, on the ladies' side.

  • 11:37:08

    REHMAnd would you agree with that, Diane?

  • 11:37:11

    ROSENFELDI would agree that a very important focus here is to take a hard look at campus sexual culture and realize that culture is not immutable but it is something that we have control over. Schools participate in it and we have to look at how people are being sexually socialized in this pimp and ho cultures, how many schools.

  • 11:37:33

    REHMDiane Rosenfeld. And we'll take a short break here. We'll be right back.

  • 11:40:05

    REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about sexual violence on college campuses, happens across the country. Here in the studio are three people, Diane Rosenfeld is a lecturer on law and director of the gender violence program at Harvard University School of Law. Laura Dunn is a student activist and law student at the University of Maryland. She is a survivor of rape on a university campus. That is at the University of Wisconsin. Daniel Rappaport is sexual assault prevention coordinator at the American University here in Washington, D.C. Let's go now to Miami, Fla. good morning, Juan, you're on the air.

  • 11:41:07

    JUANGood morning, Diane. Thank you to and your panel for addressing this issue.

  • 11:41:11


  • 11:41:11

    JUANI have two questions. First I was an RA at my undergrad and -- during my undergrad and law school years in the same college campus here in South Florida. And I graduated in 2011 never really hearing anything about this Dear Colleague guidance or anything like that. I was wondering what was the, sort of, roll out towards the RA who, in a lot of times, are the first level of contact in this sort of situation. And the second question is more towards the legal side. What is the current status both from the Department of Education and just, I guess, you'd say in a general national sense on dual tracking these sort of things with the university and state or local law enforcement?

  • 11:42:01

    REHMOK, how about you on the roll out time, Daniel.

  • 11:42:06

    RAPPAPORTThe roll out came -- it was released April 4 of 2011 so Juan would have probably just missed that.

  • 11:42:13

    REHMJust missed it.

  • 11:42:14

    RAPPAPORTAnd a lot of universities were working very hard to try to interpret and understand the Dear Colleague right at the end of that semester.

  • 11:42:20

    REHMAnd, Diane, the dual tracking.

  • 11:42:23

    ROSENFELDGreat question, Juan. Thanks for calling in. There's a very critical intersection between the criminal justice system and the school adjudication system, but because the school is enforcing a Title IX civil right it's on a different track. And it's just an entirely different legal framework. So schools are supposed to coordinate with the criminal justice system. They must notify a victim of her right to notify or not notify the criminal justice system.

  • 11:42:55

    ROSENFELDAnd they cannot delay their prompt and equitable investigation of the assault on campus because the criminal justice system might also have a parallel investigation. They have to work out reasonable timelines so maybe they can delay it for one, but they certainly can't use it as an excuse. And I have seen schools get in trouble for doing that and saying well, we have to wait until the criminal justice system investigation is done, but that's not true because there are things that they -- that immediately can take place on campus to help the victim stay in school. And the school is obligated to do that. So a parallel criminal procedure does not at all relieve the school of its obligations to address the rape.

  • 11:43:39

    REHMAll right. To Rockford, Ill. good morning, Mary.

  • 11:43:45

    MARYHi, thanks for taking my call.

  • 11:43:48


  • 11:43:48

    MARYI actually just had an example from my own life. I am a survivor of gang rape at another D.C. university. And in my case I reported threats that occurred prior to my attack to both my RA and to the university police.

  • 11:44:12

    REHMWhen did this happen, Mary?

  • 11:44:15

    MARYWhen did this happen?

  • 11:44:16


  • 11:44:16

    MARYThis was in 2009.

  • 11:44:19

    REHMI see, OK.

  • 11:44:21

    MARYThe threats were taken -- were not taken seriously. I was told I had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately I was raped by three strangers.

  • 11:44:32

    REHMOh, I'm so sorry.

  • 11:44:34

    MARYOh, thank you. After my assault because of the reaction I'd already gotten from house staff and from the university police I did not -- I am one of the women who did not report my assault. I did not know that Title IX covered anything to do with sexual assault until I went back and reported the assault to the school this year.

  • 11:45:05

    REHMSo what about retroactivity, Diane?

  • 11:45:09

    ROSENFELDWell, the school should still take a very hard look at what happened. And they wouldn't have jurisdiction over the strangers if it was a stranger rape. The more common case is a fact pattern like Steubenville where it's students at a party and there is a multi perpetrator sexual assault. And schools have obligations under this. And I would like schools to have specific training. I think they absolutely have to with their athletic departments and their fraternities because we're seeing an incredible rise in multi perpetrator sexual assault or gang rape. And it's really -- it's really tragic.

  • 11:45:48


  • 11:45:48

    DUNNSomething I would just like to throw out there. Oftentimes we think of Title IX as just a way to get justice, but it's much more than that. I think just alerting the university to that culture of being -- her fear and feeling silenced and why she did not report. Universities should still take that information and do trainings and relay that to their staff because there is silencing even before assaults.

  • 11:46:10

    DUNNWhen I was assaulted I already knew that I probably wasn't going to get justice without even knowing the specifics of the process. And I think a lot of women on campus know that if it does happen to them it's going to be a tough process. So I encourage this caller definitely still tell your university, but frame it in the context of even if you can't help me please change the culture at your campus.

  • 11:46:32

    ROSENFELDAnd also...

  • 11:46:32

    MARYYes, and that is exactly the approach I have taken. I know there won't be justice at this point in my case, but...

  • 11:46:39

    ROSENFELDMary, I'm…

  • 11:46:40

    MARYThere is an opportunity to change things.

  • 11:46:42

    ROSENFELDMary, I'm also really very sorry that that happened to you. And the culture of silence has to be changed right now. And a big part of it is people who are not initially believed or feel like they won't be believed. And this is where social media and female/female alliances are making a difference right now. So females across the country are starting to form groups.

  • 11:47:05

    ROSENFELDAnd what I want to see is small groups, even if they're virtual groups, so that any survivor who comes forward knows that she's supported by other females. And that's just being believed and knowing you have rights. So my message to all of your listeners is you have rights and you need to stand up for them and know you'll be supported and find your circles and we have to create these virtual networks.

  • 11:47:28

    REHMMary, good luck to you. Laura, talk about social media and how you were helped -- involved with it.

  • 11:47:40

    DUNNWell, I guess, in my case it was a little more low tech when I put my full name in the paper. Someone actually saw my name that worked in an advocacy organization, tracked down my email and told me there's a Title IX process. But I think right now people have been following the University of North Carolina. Clearly there's some amazing survivors and activists on that campus that are using Facebook, using Twitter to create these networks informing women about Title IX. And as Diane said, really just having a support network so people can just first identify this has happened to them, feel believed and then on top of that know their legal rights.

  • 11:48:11

    DUNNSo especially since it wasn't helpful in my case I really see what's happening at North Carolina as the next wave. So I stood by myself not knowing anything. And now there's women standing together knowing so much more and asserting their own rights, which is very powerful. And as someone who is going to be a lawyer very soon, I'm just excited to see what the next wave is because the more we can demand enforcement for our own rights the more this issue will actually change.

  • 11:48:34

    REHMYou're absolutely right. I congratulate you. Let's go to Lancaster, Pa., Molly you're on the air.

  • 11:48:44

    MOLLYYes, good morning.

  • 11:48:45


  • 11:48:46

    MOLLYI'd like to thank the young women for coming forward on this issue. I feel like I'm in a circle. Twenty-two years ago I did my doctoral dissertation on administration involvement in sexual assault prevention education programs in the Pennsylvania state system of higher education. And that's quite a mouthful, but what I did was I looked at students, I looked at professionals, you know, in the field of sexual assault and I looked at the vice presidents of student affairs in the state system -- that would be 15 colleges in Pennsylvania.

  • 11:49:33

    MOLLYAnd I did all this cross referencing. And I made a lot of suggestions, which I'm hearing today about talking to the Greek Council, administrators having a crisis center, education, all that. And at that time my words or my studies and my recommendation were totally ignored. And so we're here 22 years later and sort of doing the same thing.

  • 11:50:12


  • 11:50:12

    RAPPAPORTWell, Molly, thank you for your work. And actually they're not being ignored. They've probably laid the groundwork for much of the work that's going on today. And you raise really good points about your examination of who's doing what on campus. To have an effective and compliant Title IX policy it has to be a top down, bottom up.

  • 11:50:32

    ROSENFELDSo you need real engagement, genuine engagement from the president who recognizes that sexual assault happens on his or her campus and that one in five of his students or her students is going to be sexually assaulted unless they do something honest, proactive and effective about it. And then you need all the administrators following that -- following that tone and then you need really great peer to peer educational programs and peer to peer bonding programs with the students.

  • 11:51:03

    REHMDiane, tell us what happened at Yale.

  • 11:51:06

    ROSENFELDSo Yale is a great example of a toxic sexual culture where fraternity pledges surrounded the freshman girls' dorm at night chanting loudly no means yes, yes means anal. And that was so shocking. And I get a lot of shocking emails, as you might imagine, across my computer every night, but this one was particularly shocking. And a brief examination showed that similar hostile, highly publicized events had happened at Yale over the past several years and Yale had completely failed to respond to it.

  • 11:51:45

    ROSENFELDAnd I worked with a group of students, and now represent them, in their complaint that 16 students filed with the Office for Civil Rights. And the Office for Civil Rights conducted a very extensive investigation. Yale has changed its policy, still has a way to go, but they have instituted a lot of new programs and procedures and have not had a similarly hostile, high level event like that that I know of.

  • 11:52:11

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:52:12

    ROSENFELDBut they're still being watched for another couple years. And the fraternity was shut down by Yale for five years, which I was very happy with. And Yale deserves credit for that.

  • 11:52:21

    REHMTo Cleveland, Ohio, good morning, Nula.

  • 11:52:24

    NULAHi, thank you, Diane, for taking my call.

  • 11:52:27


  • 11:52:27

    NULAAnd for all of us. I was wondering if Diane, Lana (sic) and Daniel could advise a faculty member who's recently been terminated for standing up for her students as well as to reporting issues of harassment in elevators of her own self? Also of bringing to the floor in committee meetings the fact of a faculty member who was hired who was -- had a long rap sheet of sexual harassment that was being overlooked.

  • 11:52:58


  • 11:52:58

    NULAWhere does a faculty member go?

  • 11:53:00

    REHMThat's a good question.

  • 11:53:02

    ROSENFELDSo faculty members -- faculty members are explicitly covered under all of the relevant Title IX laws. And you have a right not to be retaliated against if you report sexual assault or for any of your activities.

  • 11:53:13

    REHMShe says she was fired when she spoke out.

  • 11:53:18

    ROSENFELDThat sounds like retaliation to me. So she would have rights.

  • 11:53:22

    REHMUnder Title IX.

  • 11:53:24

    ROSENFELDUnder Title IX, absolutely.

  • 11:53:25

    REHMNula, you ought to take it forward. Thanks for calling. To St. Louis, Mo., good morning Beth and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:53:37

    BETHGood morning.

  • 11:53:38


  • 11:53:38

    BETHI'm an author on the subject of talking back to sexual pressure. And I just want to say that this rape culture that we're talking about it means that all of us have responsibility to speak up when these things are going on. Good boys and good men, for example, need to speak up if they have a friend who says, hey, you went on a date with her last night. Did you get any? Did you score? The guy needs to say I didn't score. This is a human being. But that's not how the culture goes.

  • 11:54:05

    REHMDaniel, what do you say to that?

  • 11:54:07

    RAPPAPORTI can't agree more. I think changing the culture through education is the only way.

  • 11:54:14

    REHMIs that education now mandatory for young people coming into universities?

  • 11:54:21

    RAPPAPORTUnder my interpretation what has been presented here it sounds like it -- well, we said American University and a lot of other universities are already working to educate. But for those universities who aren't will now have to work even harder to ensure that everyone receives the education necessary.

  • 11:54:37

    REHMSo I mean do you say OK, we're going to have a seminar on sex education, what the rules are, what Title IX says and do you insist that every student attend?

  • 11:54:53

    RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. We provide it. We don't -- you know, we said American University -- we won't sanction students for not attending. That being said, we'll provide numerous opportunities for students to be educated. We don't just want to educate them at orientation. We want to educate them the first week they come to campus. We want to educate them on their residence floor. We want to educate them their second year. We want to educate them throughout their entire career because there's no one stop shop for someone to break down, you know, 18 years of cultural learning around consent and rape culture.

  • 11:55:25

    ROSENFELDAnd, Diane, the Campus SaVE Act does mandate that the policies include primary preventative education. And a really interesting point about that that my colleague, Jackson Katz makes is that prevention can only be done by the perpetrators. So prevention programs should be aimed at men while risk reduction programs can be aimed at women. And the best programs are sex segregated and followed up upon. And then you can have a co-ed conversation.

  • 11:55:55

    ROSENFELDBut also mandated in the act very interestingly is bystander education. And that's really critical because, as my other colleague, whose work I very much respect, Dorothy Edwards in the Green Dot program teaches you don't get to the one in five statistic without going through 40 other people. There are always places where people can intervene. And I would implore all of your listeners to think about, especially if they're involved in a college campus, to think about their particular role whether they're a student, a president, a parent, an administrator.

  • 11:56:31

    REHMOr a bystander.

  • 11:56:32

    ROSENFELDWe all have roles. Or a bystander.

  • 11:56:33


  • 11:56:34

    DUNNI just want to add something really critical. I think a lot of people when they're trying to educate men don't know the facts. Perpetration is a small amount of men. Dr. Lisak did amazing research on undetected rapists on campus. And it's a small, small, small percentage but they rape over and over and over again. And what they're doing is, whether they're using alcohol in a predatory fashion, they are purposely targeting people who are unable to consent and unable to resist. So when we educate our young men we cannot approach this as anyone can be a rapist -- not -- it's a small percentage and we really need to be targeted with how we send those messages out.

  • 11:57:09

    REHMLaura Dunn, she is a survivor of gang rape. She is a student activist, student of a law at the University of Maryland. Diane Rosenfeld is professor of law at Harvard University. Daniel Rappaport, sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University. I thank you all for being here. I thank you for your work and I wish you all success in your new career, Laura. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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