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Health Resource Center

Violence and Abuse

If You Have Been Raped on Campus

Colleges and universities are required by federal law to have a sexual assault policy to deal with rape and sexual assault on campus and to make this information widely and easily available to the campus community.  This policy includes a disciplinary procedure against the perpetrator that is separate from what happens if you report the crime to the police. These college policies vary enormously and are usually designed by the school to protect itself legally from potential lawsuits by the perpetrator. Schools can be sued by the victims as well. Campus activists and the threat of civil rights suits have forced some schools to put fair and supportive policies in place. If a disciplinary board believes the victim's testimony, the rapist can face expulsion. If you have been raped by another student, you have to decide whether to report the rape to the campus police and begin the process through your school and whether or not you are also going to report the rape to the police in the city or county. These processes are not mutually exclusive.

Contact your local rape crisis center, victim advocacy legal organization, or hotline and find out what they know about your school's procedures. Does your school have a sexual assault center? Is it run by the campus police, mental health services, or students? Can you receive confidential information or support there? Keep in mind that although your school might have sexual assault counselors, if they are in administrators rather than service providers for sexual assault survivors, their priority may be the interests of the school and not your access to justice.

Most of the rape that happens on campuses occurs between people who know each other. This means that you will probably see the rapist in classes, the student center, or even in the dormitories. Consider the impact of this on your ability to learn and thrive in college and remember you are legally entitled to get a stay-away order from your school, allowing you to change dormitories and preventing him from coming near you. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act gives us the right to equal access to educational opportunities. The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for insuring that schools have a fair and equitable policy on sexual assault prevention and response. You can file a complaint against your school with them. The main office is in Washington, DC, but there are branches throughout the country.


Written by: Margaret Lazarus with Renner Wunderlich, Diane Rosenfeld, and Stacey Kabat.
Last revised: March 2005

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