For many students in the Los Angeles area and across the country, the fall semester is getting underway. Returning to student life, dorms, or off-campus housing marks a step toward independence and adulthood that allows young people to thrive. However, sexual assault on college and university campuses remains a serious risk for many students – many who are afraid to come forward, due to shame, lack of resources, or fear of not being believed.
How common is sexual assault on campus?
Sexual assault at colleges and universities is a pervasive problem. According to the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, women aged 18 to 24 are at the most elevated risk of sexual assault and violence. They also list the following sobering statistics:
- “13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
- Among graduate and professional students, 9.7% of females and 2.5% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
- Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
- 8% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.
- 1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted.”
If you or your child experienced sexual assault on or off-campus, you must understand your rights.
What is sexual assault?
The U.S. Department of Justice formally defines sexual assault as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” Here in California, this encompasses a wide range of nonconsensual acts, including:
- Date rape
- Sexual harassment
- Assault or harassment from a professor or coach
- Online harassment
- Statutory rape
RAINN also notes that over half of college sexual assaults occur during the first few months of the semester.
Title IX, a federal law enacted in 1972, bans discrimination in federally-funded schools and universities based on gender and sex. Although most people think of sports regarding Title IX, this law also protects victims of sexual violence and misconduct.
What does Title IX have to do with sexual assault?
Title IX reads, in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This means if a student experiences sexual assault or harassment, reports it to the school, and the school fails to address it, the school is interfering in that student’s right to receive an equal opportunity to education. In short, Title IX prohibits schools and universities to ignore cases of sexual misconduct.
Under recent changes to Title IX, institutions of higher learning are now required to hold hearings for all sexual violence cases, a change met with concern for victim advocacy groups. These internal hearings allow cross-examinations of sexual assault victims, a process many fear will prevent victims from coming forward.
If you believe your or your child’s college or university’s Title IX program failed to properly address an incident of sexual assault, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced school sexual assault attorney to make things right.
How can I reduce my risk of sexual assault on campus?
First, remember that a victim is never responsible for sexual assault, rape, or harassment. However, on and off-campus, you can take a few precautions to lower your vulnerability for attack. Consider some of the following safety tips:
- Inform friends and family. Have a late-night study session, first date, or big party plans? Let someone know your plans. Tell them where you’re going, when you should be home, and who you’re going with. If your plans include an Uber or Lyft, send a screenshot of your ride receipt with the name of the driver and plate of the vehicle.
- Share your location. If you’re walking or traveling home alone, use your smartphone to share your location with trusted friends. In case of emergency, authorities will be able to locate you quickly.
- Keep an eye on your drink. Sexual predators may attempt to slip drugs into a victim’s drink to take away their ability to consent. Keep a close eye on your beverages, note who pours your drinks, don’t accept an unsealed drink from someone you don’t know and trust, and never leave a drink unattended.
- Avoid traveling alone. If you can, walk or travel with a buddy. Most campuses offer security escorts to increase student safety, and we encourage you to take advantage of those resources. Other possible resources include campus buses and emergency phones.
- Be cautious on social media. Although you may want to post those party photos right as they’re happening, you may also be signaling to predators exactly where you are. Wait until you are safely at home in your dorm or apartment before adding pictures to social media. “Safely” means with doors and windows locked and secured.
If you are sexually assaulted on a college campus, you have the right to be heard. Our attorneys will listen to your story without judgement and investigate the details of your case. Although your university is required to conduct their own internal investigation, reporting your assault to law enforcement is also crucial to ensuring your attacker is brought to justice.
The Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys at Taylor & Ring work to hold all parties involved in your assault accountable – from the attacker to the school administration that failed to protect you. Contact us today to discuss your legal rights and how we can help you move forward to a brighter future. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at 310-776-6390, or complete our contact form.
David Ring is a nationally renowned plaintiff’s personal injury trial attorney and has obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of seriously-injured individuals or families who have lost a loved one in a tragic accident. For more than 20 years, he has represented victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, assault, molestation and sexual misconduct in cases against a variety of employers and entities, including schools, churches and youth organizations.
He prides himself on providing aggressive, yet compassionate representation for children who have been sexually abused and women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Read more about David M. Ring.