As members of the campus group Men Against Rape and Sexual Violence, we are relieved to see some form of justice in the sexual assault case involving Tiberio Frisoli ’02 (“Grad pleads in sex assault case,” 9/28). But we sincerely hope that this case will not be quickly forgotten, as is typical of the Yale community’s response to sexual assault. We, just like everyone else, would like to believe that sexual assault does not happen on the Yale campus. Unfortunately, we know through national statistics and personal experiences that this is not true. Yale students and administrators need to acknowledge and address the incidents of sexual violence that continue to occur on our campus.
Rape and other forms of sexual assault are rampant in college settings. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, anywhere from one in five to one in four women will experience an attempted or completed rape during her college years. Of those assaults, two-thirds are committed by an acquaintance — not a stranger in a dark alley — demonstrating that the problem is students victimizing other students.
This is not very comforting news, especially for college students who are often away from their families and other support networks for the first time. Unfortunately, because most universities are fearful of negative publicity, sexual violence rarely receives the adequate attention it deserves, leaving parents and students in the dark about what risks exist on college campuses.
Following the 1986 rape and murder of Jeanne Clery at Lehigh University, Congress enacted in 1990 The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which was intended to address the problem of universities not accurately reporting the number of on-campus sexual assaults. The act mandates that all colleges and universities report all criminal offenses, including any form of rape and sexual assault, to the Department of Education. This summer, Yale was criticized by Security On Campus Inc., a national watchdog organization, for not being compliant with the Clery Act. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education was asked to investigate Yale’s process of reporting on-campus sexual assaults.
To find out if Yale’s reporting process is really any different from that of other schools, you simply have to go to the Department of Education’s Web site. There, you will find that Harvard reported 63 sexual assaults on its campus over the past three years. Princeton, a much smaller campus, reported 20, and the University of Connecticut reported 22 during the same time period. Yale reported only three. (See for yourself at http://ope.ed.gov/security/Search.asp).
Do you really think rape happens that much less at Yale?
If the Tiberio Frisoli case — in which a freshman counselor was accused of assaulting an incapacitated freshman he had walked home — can happen, don’t you wonder whether this might actually be a larger problem at Yale than people realize?
We certainly do.
So what can be done?
Fortunately, there are a number of Yale student groups tackling this problem. MARS is a group of undergraduate and graduate men and women dedicated to raising awareness among the student body about sexual assault. Rape and Sexual Violence Prevention is another group of concerned Yale undergraduates that has been lobbying the administration for a more comprehensive sexual-assault policy and a more compassionate system to support victims. They have pushed for hiring full- or part-time staff devoted to sexual-assault education, prevention and support services, akin to Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Yale College could also implement more effective educational programming that continues after freshmen orientation. But the crux of the problem is not just the way the administration reports sexual assaults — it is the very fact that students are assaulting other students.
Students need to acknowledge that rape happens at Yale and make a vocal commitment to prevent assaults. This is especially true of men. Men are affected by sexual assault, too; based on the statistics, all men are bound to have a friend, family member, classmate or significant other who is a survivor. Furthermore, men themselves are survivors. But men are also the majority of perpetrators. To decrease rape, men must take responsibility for the fact that — again, according to the Department of Justice — 99 percent of rapists are men.
What does this mean for your day-to-day life? This means that when a friend tells you she or he has been assaulted, believe that she or he has been assaulted. When a friend says something demeaning to or about a girl, call him on it. When you witness a situation in which someone could potentially be taken advantage of or assaulted, check in to see if she is OK. And when you find yourself in a situation where you’re not so sure how far she wants to go, make sure you ask.
Because in the end, the best form of justice at Yale is for no one to have to experience the horror of rape in the first place.
Dave Chandrasekaran is a second-year student at the School of Medicine. Eric Sandberg-Zakian is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.