Colleges are sending those who commit sexual assault the wrong message.
On one end, a Huffington Post study found that less than one-third of those found guilty will ever be expelled. Virginia Wesleyan College took this fact one step furtherâ€”they were set to expel a student for sexually assaulting a classmate, but then decided that allowing him to â€œvoluntarily withdrawâ€ would be better for his future.
This tunnel vision approach focused solely on the student rapistâ€™s future left his victimâ€™s future out of sight.
“They just said, ‘We looked it over and we want to ensure he can still get a good education and be able to play athletics,â€ Jane Doe said in an interview with the Huffington Post. â€œThat was a giant slap in the face to me. You’re going to help my rapist, yet I’m struggling to get decent grades, on the verge of failing out, and you aren’t helping me.”
Jane Doe, as the victim is known in a lawsuit brought against Virginia Wesleyan College, has since dropped out of school due to guilt over the change in punishment.
â€œI kept thinking they let him go to another school,â€ said Doe. â€œWhat if he rapes someone else? I started feeling guilty, like maybe I should’ve gone to police, so maybe he would’ve been arrested.”
Virginia Wesleyan College informed Doe of the change to her rapistâ€™s school record via a letter sent to her less than three months after the final hearing.
â€œOur findings regarding his violation of College policies concerning underage drinking and engaging in physical activity of a sexual nature against the will of another student remain unchanged,â€ wrote David E. Buckingham, Vice President for Student Affairs of Virginia Wesleyan College. â€œThe College also decided to allow [student rapist] withdraw, a different designation which may assist him in seeking further studies.â€
As reported by the Huffington Post, the lawsuit states that, â€œthe school failed to help the struggling young woman, but took steps to assist her assailant.â€
Virginia Wesleyan Collegeâ€™s decision is an indicator of how ill-prepared some higher education institutions are to handle, and then follow up with, instances of campus sexual assault.
â€œIf the student is finding out about a change of sanctions without knowledge of appeal, then that’s a red flag that the institution is not following their own policy,â€ said Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, to the Huffington Post.