The Atlantic's James Fallows on how the fight over SCOTUS highlights the media's struggles to cover this political moment.
This week, American University officials announced an investigation into emails that referred to sexual assault and rape. In late March, a Harvard University student anonymously disclosed her own experience with sexual assault in the school paper and how she believed the school failed to respond. At Florida State, a New York Times investigation showed the university’s mishandling of a rape allegation against their star football player. These kinds of incidences have caught the attention of the President and members of Congress, and a White House task force is expected to release recommendations early next week. Diane and her guests discuss sexual assault on campus.
- Diane Rosenfeld Law professor, Harvard University and director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School.
- Daniel Rappaport Sexual assault prevention coordinator, American University.
- Claire McCaskill U.S. senator, Missouri (D).
- Philip Hanlon President, Dartmouth College
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Reports suggest nearly one in every five women is sexually assaulted on campus and some studies show nearly 60 percent of accusers are freshmen. Here to discuss sexual assault on campus and how colleges and universities are responding, Daniel Rappaport, sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us from the studios of Harvard University, Diane Rosenfeld, professor of law at Harvard. We'll also hear from Philip Hanlon. He's president of Dartmouth College. But first, we start with Senator Claire McCaskill, democrat from Missouri. And Senator McCaskill, thank you so much for joining us.
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILLIt's a pleasure, Diane. Thank you for having me.
REHMThank you. And I know you've made sexual assault in the military a priority. You see sexual assault as equally problematic. Talk about why.
MCCASKILLWell, there are similarities in that you have a closed culture environment on a military base and also on a college campus, which just exacerbates the daunting pressures a victim faces because not only must she come forward into the light with the most personally painful, at it's very core, private moment of her life, but she has to do it in the kind of environment where it reverberates.
MCCASKILLAnd what we've found as we looked carefully at the military and this problem, they had not been victim-centric. They had not focused on how do we support the victim. How do we investigate these cases with putting the victim first and understanding the forensic necessities of the interview with the victim and how that is handled.
MCCASKILLAnd college campuses have wide variety of protocols, the way they're handling this right now and that's why this survey we're doing is going to be so important. And by the way, it's complicated, Diane.
MCCASKILLAs your other guests will tell you, we've got competing regulations and laws and the differences between state laws and federal laws so this isn't easy, but it's really important we get it right 'cause there's way too many young women who are going through this alone and they're gonna carry it for the rest of their lives.
REHMAnd there are many young women who are blaming themselves for having been put into situations where, in fact, they may be vulnerable, perhaps having too much to drink.
MCCASKILLThere's no question about it that -- it's almost as if these young women think there is a requirement for them to have perfect judgment to be the victim of a crime. You do not have to have perfect judgment to be the victim of a crime and it doesn't make any difference whether you are incapacitated from alcohol or whether a gun is put to your head, it is a crime.
MCCASKILLAnd it is that problem on the part of these young people that are worried they shouldn't have gone where they went, they shouldn't have ever gone to his room, they shouldn't have been drinking, that really stands in the way of them being honest about what they do remember and then letting law enforcement and the university investigation build a case.
REHMI know you're a former federal prosecutor. You're prosecuted sex crimes. What makes this issue so difficult on college campuses?
MCCASKILLWell, frankly, I was not a federal prosecutor. I was a state prosecutor, which means that's where 99.9 percent -- well, frankly, even more than that -- of sexual assault cases are prosecuted. The federal government has very limited jurisdiction in this area. And I handled hundreds of these cases. And the reason this is so difficult is because the key to successfully holding perpetrators accountable in these crimes is victim support.
MCCASKILLAnd college campuses have not been as focused as they should be on making sure victims know where they can go for the kind of support they need, making sure they get good information and making sure, frankly, on a preventative that they understand that it is not their fault, no matter how much they had to drink, no matter how bad of judgment they used in terms of where they went and with who.
MCCASKILLIt is really important, these young women -- my daughters are college age and I talked to another mother whose daughter went to a university in my state and her daughter called her from school and said, mom, I won't go to that fraternity house because the ground floor of that fraternity house is known as the rape basement.
MCCASKILLThat's the kind of stuff that young people are trying to get their arms around and we just haven't given them enough support or information to empower them to hold their perpetrator accountable and these universities are an incredibly important part of this equation. That's why...
REHMOf course. Now...
MCCASKILL...this survey we're doing is going to be very helpful 'cause we're gonna, for the first time, get statistically valid information across the United States about how they are, in fact, implementing Title IX, the Clery Act and now the SaVE Act, that all three are trying to get at this problem.
REHMAnd what about the taskforce established by President Obama in January to deal with the issue? I know that taskforce meets again on Tuesday. What do you hope will come from it?
MCCASKILLWell, I hope it will be another layer of support and information for the public to get behind. I'm sure they will have a number of recommendations. We will -- after we finish our surveys, we will move to a series of round tables with university officials, local law enforcement is incredibly important here. Many times there is a disconnect between university police and local police departments that really contributes to this problem.
MCCASKILLAnd then, we'll move on to hearings and we'll look forward to discussing the results of the taskforce at the hearings we will have on this during the summer.
REHMPlease tell me what one thing you would say to young women like your daughter, young men going to college now, what one thing might you say to them that would alert them not only of the danger, but the concerns about awareness?
MCCASKILLI think that I would tell them you need to be -- you are a young woman who is strong and smart and you need to be strong and smart in the face of this horrible trauma, which means you need to get good information. You need to find a support system and you need to most of all realize that blaming yourself just empowers rapists and perpetrators of these horrendous crimes.
MCCASKILLAnd that it is a crime. This isn't something to be brushed under the rug. And the sooner college campuses begin to focus that kind of information towards their students on campus, the sooner we'll turn the corner on what has developed into a real cultural problem in higher education in the United States.
REHMDo you believe that the fact that the president has focused on this is going to make a difference on college campuses around the country or is this simply going to be something people talk about and then it goes right back to the way it was?
MCCASKILLI think you're going to see -- I'm going to be working with Senator Gillibrand on this issue also. We worked together on sexual assault in the military and accomplished over 30 sweeping and historic reforms to that system. There's some inconsistencies between the federal regulations and laws that we need to get at. I believe the president being involved is helpful. I don't think this going to go away. This is too important.
MCCASKILLThis is too important to college campuses and young people and I think we've got to really focus on this until we are confident that every university system understands that the Title IX director is something that is a very important key personnel in their campus if they want to be successful in education young people and preparing them for the world.
REHMYou've been quoted as saying it's just as criminal to rape someone at the point of a gun as it is someone passed out and unconscious. How do you believe you get that message across to young men and women?
MCCASKILLWell, I think part of it is changing the system so that young women are supported and they way they are interviewed. You know, there's a real issue with the way victims are interviewed, when they are interviewed and how they are interviewed. And that is one of the most important things we need to do on these college campuses because many times, they are going to take that first interview and many times when a young woman has been incapacitated or drunk, she will add to her story in order to bolster her credibility, which is a huge mistake.
MCCASKILLBut one of the reasons she feels the need to do that is because she has a sense they might not believe her. So the way that interview occurs is critically important and, I think, you know, reassuring a victim at the moment of report that what you're interested in is knowing what they do remember and the facts surrounding it. You can corroborate these cases.
MCCASKILLThe case done in Florida, the thing that was so disgusting about the way the Winston investigation was handled, the Heisman trophy winner that was accused of raping a woman that was a student there, they had the opportunity to corroborate many parts of her statement and they just looked the other way. And that's why the...
REHMWhat did they do instead? Help me understand.
MCCASKILLWell, they basically shelved the investigation. They basically, you know, made statements that the victim wasn't interested in continuing to cooperate, which, according to the victim and her lawyer, that was not true. So I think that they had an opportunity to -- in almost every single one of these crimes, you're going to have some kind of corroboration if you're focused on trying to corroborate a statement rather than tearing it apart. And when the...
REHMSenator Claire McCaskill, democratic senator from Missouri, thank you so much for joining us.
MCCASKILLIt's been my pleasure. Thanks so much, Diane.
REHMThank you. And short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back as we talk about rape on college campus, something that has happened nearly nationwide. Here in the studio, Daniel Rappaport. He's sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University. And I do want to remind our listeners that American University holds the license for WAMU FM. Diane Rosenfeld is a lecturer on law at Harvard University and director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law. Joining us now as well, Philip Hanlon, president of Dartmouth College.
REHMAnd to you, Diane Rosenfeld, how important do you believe it is that the issue is being taken up now by the president, by senators? Do you think that colleges will and should pay more attention?
MS. DIANE ROSENFELDGood morning. I absolutely do and it's not just that the president is paying attention right now in response to different events throughout the United States. Actually President Obama has made this a priority since the beginning of his administration. And first he established the Council of Women and Girls and appointed Valerie Jarrett to chair it. And they've been looking at these issues as well.
MS. DIANE ROSENFELDVice President Biden has a special advisor on Violence Against Women, Lynn Rosenthal. And with Tina Chan they've been working very hard on these issues. Then he appointed Russlyn Ali who was the author of the "Dear Colleague Letter" for the office of civil rights of the Department of Education. The Department of Education enforces Title IX.
MS. DIANE ROSENFELDAnd it's very important to remember and keep in mind throughout this discussion that Title IX is a civil rights statute. And people wonder about the different between the significance of a sexual assault that occurs on campus that is also a crime. So it is a dual incident that can be addressed and is often very, very poorly addressed in the criminal justice system. But Title IX requires that schools address a hostile environment promptly and effectively.
REHMNow, let me just interrupt you for one moment. I want to address this both to you and President Hanlon. I've just gotten an email from Brian in St. Louis. He is emeritus professor of English at Southern Illinois University. He says, "As a college professor my question is, why is any of this the university's business? Why aren't these issues left to the police?
REHMUniversities lost the ability to control the behavior of students when we decided that 18-year-olds are adults. Universities can no longer act in loco parentis. They cannot control the behavior of the adults to whom they rent living quarters. They should stop pretending they can. If there's any issue of sexual assault, the first and last thing a university official should do is call the police." Wonder how you feel about that, President Hanlon.
MR. PHILIP HANLONWell, I don't agree with Brian on that. First of all, and most importantly, excessive harmful behaviors are harming young people on our campus. And there's nothing more important, as college president, than the safety of our students. We can lead on prevention and we've been doing that at Dartmouth for several years.
MR. PHILIP HANLONWe put in place a bystander initiative program. And the theory behind that is that we know from research that 90 percent of sexual assaults are committed by a small part of the population, about 3 percent. And so we're going to try to activate the other 97 percent towards prevention. So give them the skills to identify when there's a potential sexual assault underway and give them the tools to intervene. We're standing up a center for community action and prevention, which is going to try to mobilize the whole community.
MR. PHILIP HANLONI think Senator McCaskill spoke very eloquently about the need to support survivors to make it safe for them to come forward. Do the investigation in a good way. And in June we're putting in place new judicial processes which do that and also include a provision for mandatory expulsion.
REHMDiane Rosenfeld, what was your reaction to the email?
ROSENFELDI'm -- I think that Brian illustrates the need to educate our campus communities. And that's one of the three things that Title IX requires us to do. And the three things are education, response and resolution. And all three of those are, you know, legs of a stool. And if you don't have all three you're not going to have an effective program.
ROSENFELDSo Title IX is analogous to Title VII and sexual harassment. So Brian I'm sure would agree that a school has the responsibility to address sexual harassment say between professors and students, and certainly between students and students. And sexual assault is a severe form of sexual harassment. So that's an important way to understand it.
ROSENFELDAnd to President Hanlon, I'm glad that he's taking these steps. And I'm familiar with the Green Dot program which is a brilliant bystander intervention program. But you really -- the first thing you have to do is really dig into the culture. And you're not going to do that with the bystander intervention program. You need to really get in there and look at what kind of sexual toxic messaging like -- that is going on with fraternities. And you really have to interrupt that behavior and that language. And you have to set models. Like the president has to get in there and talk to the students himself or herself to really change the culture and also...
REHMAll right. And Daniel Rappaport, I want to turn to you because the news this week from American University involved a series of very troubling emails. What do we know?
MR. DANIEL RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. I'm very glad that you brought that up and I'm actually very glad that I have the opportunity to speak right after Diane, who was talking about the culture. I think those emails are a perfect example of decor of that culture.
REHMGive me an idea -- I know that they contain very offensive language, but give me an idea of what those emails said, to him they were sent, how they were communicating.
RAPPAPORTSure. They were emails, for the most part, that were sent within this group that is not recognized as a fraternity on American University's campus.
REHMThey were at one time?
RAPPAPORTAt one point...
RAPPAPORT...but they have not been for over a decade (unintelligible) .
RAPPAPORTBut this group sent emails back and forth that discussed a variety of things, including drugs, but also including sexual violence towards women, whether in theory or particular or something specific.
REHMAnd when were they sent?
RAPPAPORTThey were sent over a variety -- not variety -- of many different years. The chain of emails were not in order. And I'm in no way in charge of investigating those emails. But it seemed as if the emails were taken out of context and put into a long chain that was over -- or about 70 pages.
REHMHow did American University find out about these emails?
RAPPAPORTThe emails were sent to a variety of sources, including students, administrators and, as far as we were told, to media outlets.
REHMAnd indeed these emails were quite threatening as far as young women were concerned. What do you think their reactions have been, those of the young women?
RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. I think the reaction of the young women and young men on campus, as well as the administrations, have been very similar in that we are all extremely alarmed to see the sort of behavior and language used. It's not just some, you know, thing that happens on TV or at other college campuses. It's happening on ours just as well. So it's very alarming to everyone.
RAPPAPORTBut our university is taking it extraordinary seriously. And we know, including an email from our president that went out to the entire community, that we're not looking at this as, you know, one closed incident. We're looking at it as a bigger cultural piece.
REHMI understand that, and while there may not be anything illegal about these emails, what does it say about the culture on the campus?
RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. And I think the culture -- or these emails are one representation of a culture that exists not just on our campus, not just in one group of men, one fraternity, one Greek Life or athletics, but our culture as a whole here in the United States of America where we are teaching men and boys to not only be aggressive towards each other, but be aggressive towards women. That we're connecting masculinity and manhood to the domination and aggression towards women or creating an environment where violence against women is something to be applauded.
ROSENFELDAnd Diane, if I might intervene here.
ROSENFELDWe -- I echo everything that Daniel said and I was glad that the president of AU has taken it seriously. And this is a teaching moment, and it's great that these emails came up because we don't often know what's going on in these male-only spaces where they're talking about the degradation of women. But I developed a new term for this, which is target rape.
ROSENFELDAnd it's not date rape and it's not acquaintance rape because often they barely even know the person, but it's target rape. It's when guys, you know, get together and say, I'm going to go out and get laid tonight. And I'm going to get her drunk and, you know, I'm going to get somebody drunk and get laid tonight. And it's like...
REHMOr use drugs.
ROSENFELDOr use drugs. So alcohol and drug-facilitated rape is like Senator McCaskill said. It's the same as being held at gunpoint. But it's...
REHMIt's a crime.
ROSENFELD...you're unconscious. And I see this all over. And I'm very concerned about multi perpetrators' sexual assault. And schools are in a great position to do this and really punish that. And the behavior is illegal because it violates your rights under Title IX to equal access to educational opportunity. And if you're in a sexually hostile environment like that where you're under a threat of sexual violence and your school hasn't done anything about it affirmatively to shut that down, then it's very possible that you're in a sexually hostile environment.
REHMPresident Hanlon, do you believe there's any connection between the behavior you discovered on campus and your admissions rate? Do I understand that applications to Dartmouth have actually fallen?
HANLONYeah, Diane, before I answer that, I want to just add one thing to thing...
HANLON...to the interesting discussion that Daniel and Diane just had, which is that, you know, one question you might ask is, whether college campuses today are different than they were in the past. And I actually think that information technology has brought a huge difference to the environments on campuses. Not just campuses, as Daniel was noting, but there's lots of opportunities and benefits that come with information technologies.
HANLONBut they also provide unfiltered, unmediated access to content that can be -- you know, it can be pornography, it can be hate speech, it can be wildly inaccurate or misleading information. And I think that adds a level of intensity and risk on our college campuses that really wasn't there in the past. And, of course, it also starts at a much earlier age. So it socializes our incoming students in different ways (unintelligible) ...
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And tell me what happened as far as the admissions rate.
HANLONYeah, so we had a drop in applications this year. And we've done investigation, you know, surveying people who did not apply, who visited the campus and didn't apply or who saw his test scores and didn't apply. Clearly there are many factors at play in what caused this drop. But if even one student didn't apply to Dartmouth because the perceptions about the social life then that's a big problem, which I think needs to be addressed.
REHMI understand, President Hanlon, that that's -- the 14-percent drop is the sharpest you've seen in two decades. The federal government has launched an investigation of issues related to sexual harassment and sexual violence there on your campus.
HANLONSo that is true and that's an ongoing investigation which of course we're cooperating with fully. I think that, you know, we have worked hard at extreme and harmful behaviors on our campus. High-risk drinking as well as sexual assault and they are related to each other. And we've made some great progress which -- particularly in the high-risk drinking area but it's not enough.
HANLONAs I said these behaviors are harming our students, they're dividing our community, they're distracting us from the important academic work we want to do. And so last week I held a summit with student leaders. I said, you know, progress is not success. We need to do better. And I sort of set the expectation that we will find a way to end these harmful behaviors (unintelligible) ...
REHMAll right. And Diane Rosenfeld, would you describe for us the anonymous letter written by a Harvard University student about her experience and what said about how the university responded?
ROSENFELDSure. So it was a very heartbreaking letter by a Harvard student who was sexually assaulted by a friend of hers. And it sounds like she was shut down by different people who were supposed to be able to connect her to resources and get her help. And as a result...
REHMWhat do you mean shut down?
ROSENFELDI mean told that she wouldn't be able to go ahead and prove anything because the definition of sexual assault under which Harvard was operating wouldn't reach or be able to address the type of sexual assault that she...
REHMPlease describe that definition of sexual assault.
ROSENFELDThat it required penetration and it was a 1993 definition that I don't have in front of me right now but that this alcohol-facilitated sexual assault that she endured was not with force and would not have met the definition. So she was not able to get any -- the accommodations that she would have needed to continue her education. And she's still in the same house as her assailant. So that's pretty tragic. And this happens a lot at many schools.
ROSENFELDI'm in the position where I can often help students get the accommodations that they need to stay in school. I don't know who this person is but am absolutely willing to help her if there's anything I can do. But it's very clear in the "Dear Colleague Letter" that as an accommodation a school can and should consider removing the accused so that they can eliminate the hostile environment presented when the victim encounters him.
REHMAnd I know you wrote your own response to that incident.
ROSENFELDI did. And my response is my message to all schools, which is that schools might not be able to prevent all rape on campus but they can absolutely and must absolutely prevent the second rape. And the second rape is anything -- when you don't treat that victim with absolute respect and dignity and help her stay in school, you can cause enormous trauma and analogous to a second rape.
REHMDiane Rosenfeld. She's a lecturer at Harvard University on law. Short break here. We'll go to your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We are talking about rape on college campuses, which is going on all over the country. The president has now named a task force to investigate college rape. With me here in the studio, Daniel Rappaport. He's sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University. From the studios of Harvard University, Diane Rosenfeld. She's a lecturer on law at Harvard, director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School.
REHMAnd I know that you, Mr. Philip Hanlon, of Dartmouth College, have to leave us very shortly. So I want to read you an email, President Hanlon, get your response to it before you have to leave us. It's from a young woman whose name is Louise. She says, "When I was in college I was assaulted by several members of a fraternity off campus. I'm not sure if I had too much drink or was drugged. I was mentally numb, but remember feeling pain.
REHM"I did see a doctor, but did not file charges, per family advice. I couldn't identify anyone, but I was so embarrassed about possible whispers behind my back. I dropped out as a junior and never completed my degree anywhere." Now, if that young woman had been at Dartmouth College, President Hanlon, what advice would you personally have given her?
HANLONSo first I should say it's a tragic story. I feel for this woman. And I hope that we do reach a point on college campuses nationwide where that kind of thing will never happen again. You know, if I was to give her advice I would say, as Senator McCaskill did, be strong, seek out the help you need.
HANLONWe have every obligation to make this -- to provide as much support and to make it as straightforward -- we're moving to an advocate model where survivors coming forward will be assigned an advocate to try to help them sort through what the resources for support are. But, again, it's a tragic story. And hope that we will reach a point where those kinds of stories no longer occur.
REHMAnd do believe you have the full support of the student body as you put into place new regulations, new approaches for dealing with this issue, both emotionally, mentally and physically?
HANLONI do. I do. I think we're at a new point on college campuses today. I think the raised awareness, which has come from many directions, but certainly from President Obama and Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand and the Office of Civil Rights have really made a change. As I said, I sort of -- last week I had a summit with the students. I laid down a marker that we need fundamental change in the social scene to end these high-risk behaviors.
HANLONWe put in place a process, which is pretty rapid. We're shooting for actions by November. The first step of which, however, is to get the best ideas from campus. And to your point about student engagement, within the first several days we had 800 suggestions already. So I think the campus is ready.
ROSENFELDThat's really good to hear.
ROSENFELDMay I jump in for a second?
REHMCertainly. Go right ahead.
ROSENFELDIt's really good to hear, President Hanlon, that you're emphasizing education because you get these 18-year-olds, but -- and they've had experiences, but they're certainly educable. And they will obey rules that are set for them, the rules of the road on campus. And I want to say, in response to Sen. McCaskill's point about women blaming themselves, is that that is institutionally reflected. So if you're a college president, you can set up offices and institutions that really intervene in this behavior.
ROSENFELDYou can reward males for coming forward as bystanders, saying, "Listen, this is going on in my fraternity and we need help." Because he might not be able -- he might not have the capacity to step up himself and interrupt sexist behavior because he's afraid of being called non-masculine or something. So there's all kinds of things you can do. And in response to this woman who wrote the email, as a college president you know who's coming and going.
ROSENFELDAnd if a student drops out, you have an exit interview with her and you find out if that's why -- if that's what the attrition is for. And there's so many women that drop out after a rape and after the school hasn't done anything about it. So I think that that's an important thing to look at. And to the student, Harvard has an extension school and you can even do it online and you can finish your degree. So you can contact me and I'd be happy to give you information about that. And thanks for coming forward.
REHMAll right. And to you, Philip Hanlon…
REHM…thank you so much for…
HANLONThank you for the opportunity. I enjoyed it. Thanks.
REHMI hope you'll join us again, thank you. And here's another email, which begins, "This is a subject I really struggle with. If I go to a man's hotel room at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, drunk or otherwise under the influence, and something bad happens, do I bear some responsibility? Of course I would never deserve to be sexually assaulted, but does it show a lack of good judgment on my part?
REHM"Would I walk around Central Park in the middle of the night and then be surprised or outraged if I'm mugged? As I said, I feel very conflicted about this issue." Daniel Rappaport, how would you answer that question?
RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. I would say that if someone chooses to do something else to somebody, the sole responsibility is on the person who did something. Making a poor decision or poor judgment is -- there's no consequence, not just morally or legally, that says, you know, drinking too much, therefore you will be sexually assaulted. That doesn't exist.
REHMTell me what your responsibility is on the campus of American University.
RAPPAPORTSure. I have two roles at American University. I'm the sexual assault prevention coordinator, which means I oversee education outreach and awareness for sexual violence, dating violence and stalking. The other side of my job is acting as a confidential victim advocate, which means I can provide confidential support to anyone who's been directly or indirectly affected by any form of sexual violence, dating violence or stalking.
REHMGive me a sense of how often people, young women or men, turn to you.
RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. I can tell you that since this victim advocate role was created in November of 2011, that I have seen increasing numbers each semester. And it's not because more assaults, per se, are happening on campus, but rather we've made resources available to the students so they're learning that the opportunities available to seek resources, not only through me, but as an advocate my job is to help connect them to other resources on campus.
REHMAnd what does that mean, connecting them to other resources?
REHMWhat about the law?
RAPPAPORTAbsolutely. And I think that's why confidential advocates are so important because if someone wants to learn about those options, not just resources on campus, but also legal options, also campus conduct options, but without making an official report, they can do that through a confidential resource like a victim advocate. That means someone can come to me and say, "I'm not sure whether I want to go forward legally or go forward with student conduct, but I'd like to learn more about it."
REHMBut do you advise them to call police?
RAPPAPORTI support their decisions 100 percent no matter what they choose to do or what they choose not to do. And that's part of that victim-centered, which Senator McCaskill was talking about. We need to have victim-centered resources and administrators and everything that we can on campus that allows students to regain control. That means whatever options we can provide them, we have to let them make those decisions.
RAPPAPORTAnd no one who's become a victim needs to bear the burden of having to go through a legal process. Would I love if we could, you know, throw every single person who's committed or perpetrated sexual assault in jail? Absolutely. But coming back to culture, too, that's not going to change the sexual assault and rape that exists. If we put everyone in jail that actually comes forward because we still have a culture that supports the people out there that do it.
REHMDiane Rosenfeld, would you agree with that?
ROSENFELDI would agree with most everything that Daniel says. And I'm so glad that he's there doing the job he's doing, because I know that he's doing a fantastic job. A big part of this is knowing your rights. And there's a fantastic student organization, called Know Your IX, that I encourage all listeners to go to the website, to go Know Your IX's website because everybody has these rights under Title IX.
ROSENFELDAnd the Campus Save Act requires specifically that schools inform people who come forward of all of their rights. And about their rights to be supported while do. So they have rights within the school and then they have -- of course they have rights to talk to the police about it and to be taken seriously.
REHMNow, at Harvard, are you the person they come to?
ROSENFELDI am not the official person they come to, but I do get students who come to me through other students or they just know about me. But we have an office for sexual assault prevention and response that is a really excellent resource for students. And they have 24/7 hotline help and assistance. So that's the first place that students are advised to go.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones now. First to Catherine, in Indianapolis. You're on the air.
CATHERINEYes. Thank you for taking my call.
CATHERINEThe issue of sexual assault, I think, is a reflection of a much deeper cultural problem in our universities. And that has to do with the idea that universities believe they can handle misbehavior in their own little world without having to interact with the rest of the world. Last year, I represented a young woman who had engaged in some misappropriation of funds at a university. And in the process of trying to make sure that she made restitution without ruining her life.
CATHERINEI ran into this idea that -- from everybody -- that she was not entitled to counsel. That she was not entitled to privacy. That everything was being handled by the director of -- you would refer -- you would call it campus life or student life or student affairs. And every single request I made, giving her legal advice, was basically ignored, saying this is an internal matter. And while what she did was certainly -- and that issue was certainly way less egregious than sexual assault, it occurred to me that the idea of sexual assault on campus is also being seen as, "It's an internal matter."
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Diane Rosenfeld?
ROSENFELDWell, it's that it's regulable under Title IX so that makes it different because it's a civil rights matter. So it's different, for example, than plagiarism or other things that campuses have jurisdiction over and have a responsibility toward. But Title IX controls sexual harassment and sexual assault. And that makes it just a different and regulable area.
REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, to Bill, in Oklahoma City. You're on the air.
BILLYes, ma'am. I should say right off the bat that I'm a complete supporter of the things that are being discussed today. I use to work with domestic violence as a social worker for years. Recently, after a long period of burnout, I went back to school. And am currently attending a school. Got into a situation where a student accused me of sexual assault. Went through two hearings. Was cleared on all accounts. Went to court was cleared on all accounts.
BILLShe called the police on me eight times in front of the entire campus, but unfortunately nothing ever happened to her. I was told that there was no action I could take because the school was afraid of the retaliation clause under Title IX. I think -- even though I agree with everything that you're discussing here. I think it also needs to be drawn out that occasionally women and men use this as a tool of revenge. And when we talk about, well, the victim has total rights, I think we need to pay attention that there is a burden of proof that needs to be done here.
REHMWould agree, Diane Rosenfeld?
ROSENFELDSo I would say that we are facing a one in five number that has been repeated, sometimes it's a one in four number, and it's 20 percent of women between 18 and 24 will be victims of sexual assault during their time at school. And that's our organizing principle. And in the Campus Save Act it designates how you do an investigation. And the requirement is a fair, prompt and equitable investigation.
ROSENFELDAnd, Bill, I would say, that during the investigation, if it was a responsible investigation and in fact, you know, you were completely innocent and she had no case, that it would have been disposed of at that point. And it's also worth mentioning that the guidance for, well, what is a fair investigation, the guidance given in the Campus Save Act is that the investigation should focus on victim safety and accountability.
ROSENFELDSo that's very important to remember, as well. The burden of proof in a civil rights case, in any civil rights case, including sexual assaults and sexual harassment on campus is a preponderance of the evidence. And a really competent investigation should be able to figure out who did what by preponderance of the evidence.
ROSENFELDAnd then take the appropriate measures.
REHMAll right. And finally, I know many people have probably read about that case at Florida State and one wonders to what extent universities try to protect their athletes. Diane?
ROSENFELDTo an enormous extent. And Baine Kerr is the lawyer for the FSU victim. And he's done the most impressive Title IX legal work that I've seen, especially involving athlete-perpetrated sexual assault and multi-perpetrators sexual assault. Schools have to get out way in front on this issue and they should be more punished for protecting their athletes in a way that we have seen through some of Baine's cases. And I do work with him on some of these cases.
REHMAnd finally, to you, Daniel. How significant do you think the president's commission will be? What do you want to see coming out of it?
RAPPAPORTSure. I obviously hope for the best. I hope the guidelines and recommendations, in terms of best practice on campuses to really prevent and respond to sexual assault can make a huge difference for universities across the country. It can make a real standard where universities will have to step up and really make a huge impact on combating this.
REHMDaniel Rappaport, he's sexual assault prevention coordinator at American University, which does hold the license for WAMU. Diane Rosenfeld is a lecturer on law at Harvard University, director of the Gender Violence Program at Harvard Law School. Thank you all so much.
REHMAnd that's for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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