The #MeToo movement helped bring the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace out of the shadows and the prevalence of this distressing problem on university campuses is also a major cause for concern.
If you ask a prominent sex crime lawyer about this issue they will likely confirm that many women have experienced some level of sexual harassment or even been assaulted on campus, but many victims are reluctant to report the incident.
An underlying fear that their account won’t be believed or even the threat of retaliation means that many victims never come forward and this means that official figures probably significantly understate the extent of the problem.
Lawyers who handle these distressing cases know all too well that sexual harassment at universities is an ongoing problem that needs to be urgently addressed.
Zero rape cases reported goes against the anecdotal evidence
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has stated that a staggering 89% of college and university campuses have reported zero rape incidents which is a statistic that clearly doesn’t align with general research and reports.
It is abundantly clear that if someone is assaulted or subjected to sexual harassment it can leave a physical and psychological scar that can last a lifetime.
Although the number of reported incidents has risen in recent times, thanks to greater awareness in the media and the #MeToo movement encouraging victims to speak out, it is still the case that many universities seem to put barriers in the way that can discourage someone from reporting they have been subjected to an attack or general sexual harassment.
Even if you widen the scope of reporting to include sexual assaults other than rape, such as stalking, dating violence, or other distressing actions, the AAUW still found that almost 80% of campuses still reported zero incidents of sexual assault.
Defining sexual harassment
You will not be surprised to discover that sexual harassment is against the law and legislation such as the Civil Rights Act 1964is in place to give victims the legal protection they deserve.
However, there is still some element of confusion about what level of so-called harassment crosses the line and breaks the law.
In general terms, incidents of sexual harassment can vary from unwanted verbal comments to sexual innuendo or jokes, even spreading rumors about someone’s alleged sexual activities.
Physical incidents of sexual harassment can be anything from hugging or body touching without consent, to serious actions such as rape.
If you are a victim of sexual harassment you should aim to tell at least one other person about the incident. This may be a designated counselor at the university or it could be the police.
You also have the option of legal redress in order to bring the perpetrator to account. This can include filing a complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, and you may want to talk to a sex crime lawyer to get some guidance as to what your options are.
The stark reality is that sexual harassment is far more prevalent at universities than is being officially reported, but you do have options when it comes to ensuring that you don’t remain a silent victim.