Sexual assaults on college campuses often mean playing by the rules of that institution in terms of the survivor’s care afterwards and the consequences for the alleged assailant.
For many colleges and universities, this means establishing a no-contact order, which is meant to keep the individual at a distance from their accuser while the investigation into the matter is settled and the school decides on an appropriate resolution. This seems to be a good idea – keeping the victim at a safe distance from their attacker to avoid physical altercations or mental/emotional manipulation.
But this method of handling the situation while the investigation is pending has many flaws that these institutions have not bothered to address. This ends up making these schools less safe and leads to the belief, by survivors and advocates alike, that colleges and universities are more preoccupied with any potential loss of incoming funds than with helping their students feel safe and respected on campus.
Some of the flaws included in this no-contact method of dealing with reports of sexual assault:
- When the accused has no shame in violating this no-contact order and continues to intimidate the survivor around campus and there is no consequence to their actions from any administration.
- When institutions feel that the no-contact order is enough of a punishment and the investigation lacks any real effort.
- When institutions treat the survivors as guilty and do not consider any other issues that may lead to violation of the no-contact order – i.e. situations in which the survivor is in an abusive relationship with their assailant and is being manipulated into contact or fears that leaving their partner is too dangerous.
- When the no-contact order feels more like a gag order to keep the survivors quiet and not tarnish any reputations with “nastiness”.
One way of doing that includes more specific no-contact orders, such as the one outlined by Tyler Kingkade of the Huffington Post, where the school went so far as to dictate that the accused could not be on campus outside of specified hours because of his constant violations of the no-contact order. These no-contact orders may seem overbearing to some, but it allows some survivors to feel more at peace and not fear constant retribution for speaking out.
Another is to provide better resources for the survivors to discuss their emotions, not to stifle them from discussing the “case” when it is so much more personal and traumatizing for them. This leads to the feeling that they are being blamed for what happened to them and the sense that the school just wants to make it all go away, not to give them any justice or sense of security.
One of the biggest things these institutions need to do for the survivors on their campuses is to find alternatives to the general “just leave each other alone” feeling that the current implementation of no-contact orders give to many. Ignoring each other won’t work if the alleged assailant decides to harass their victim for daring to report them and it won’t help the individual who cannot get away from their assailant for whatever emotional or physical reasons. There needs to be more done for the survivor, not just empty gestures that leave these people feeling even more victimized and hurt because they decided to reach out to the administration that was supposed to help them.
Currently colleges and universities don’t do anywhere near what they should be doing for the individuals on campus who report sexual assault. Some schools are starting to learn from their previous mistakes, but it is up to us – the students and the alumni and all the donors that make these institutions work – to tell them that “good enough” isn’t good enough.