White House pushes campuses to improve handling of rape cases

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — A White House report on the handling of rape at college campuses suggests that schools start doing anonymous surveys, asking students to talk about the climate of sexual assault on campuses, to give prevention workshops and access to confidential advocates.

Recommendations also include having sexual misconduct policies that fit  guidelines, trauma training for staff and 24-access for rape survivors to be able to report an incident.

Vice President Joe Biden also emphasized that rape survivors should not have to give extremely personal information to campus investigators.

“They have no right to know about your sexual history or conduct,” Biden said. “It’s none of their business.”

Madeline Smith, a Harvard student who said she was raped last year, spoke about the difficulties of dealing with the administration throughout the process of reporting what happened to her.

White House pushes campuses to improve handling of rape cases

“What it’s like sitting in a room full of Harvard professors as they look at a magnified photo of your backside covered in bruises and broken blood vessels,” Smith said.

Both Columbia University and the University of Connecticut are being sued by students and former students for the schools’ handling of their rape cases.

UConn president Susan Herbst reiterated the school’s “zero tolerance” attitude toward rape in a letter last year.

Meanwhile Columbia University said, in a statement to Pix11 News that it applauded the President, Vice President and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for leading the effort in dealing with sexual assault.

Students at Columbia said the school already did many of the things the White House recommended in its report, but could still improve. Student Xavier du Maine said, for example, that the school required freshmen to undergo sexual violence prevention workshops, that du Maine said had the theme of “Consent is Sexy.”

“That’s the only thing they really are saying about this issue – as long as you have consent it’s fine,” du Maine said. “It’s also not really addressing the partying and drinking culture which is also contributing to that.”

Columbia University said in its statement Tuesday that it is making changes to that mandatory training, as well as access to peer advocates as well as web and phone services.

The University said it would also heighten “procedural safeguards” for rape survivors who involve the University in the investigation process, and that it would put together a town hall discussion to hear more from students.