Federal Effort Targets Sexual Assaults At Colleges
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Yesterday, Vice President Biden traveled to the University of New Hampshire to release new guidelines that clarifies schools' obligations. New Hampshire Public Radio's Elaine Grant was there.
ELAINE GRANT: Last year, a college freshman was raped. Vice President Biden told her story but didn't use her real name. He called her Jenny. He said she'd been drinking at a party. And when she sought justice through the school, she was asked what she was wearing, how she was dancing, and whether she was sober.
JOE BIDEN: The student judicial panel said that they didn't find Jenny credible because she had been drinking. They decided her rapist was a nice kid and didn't deserve the punishment under the circumstances.
GRANT: In a speech to 600 students and faculty, Biden illustrated one of the most common scenarios on college campuses today. A Justice Department study says one out of five female students will be sexually assaulted or raped, and many times alcohol is involved. But whether someone is drunk or sober doesn't matter. As Biden put it...
BIDEN: Look, folks, rape is rape is rape.
GRANT: Another innovation is the Bringing in the Bystander program, which teaches students that everyone is responsible for preventing sex crimes. Senior Herbert Cornell took the Bystander seminars.
HERBERT CORNELL: It's really amazing. It's like empathy building and like tactics to intervene like in situations in the real world, I guess.
GRANT: Psychology Professor Vicki Banyard says preliminary studies show that the Bystander program works.
VICKI BANYARD: It reduces rape myths, and it increases their expressed confidence to be a helpful bystander.
GRANT: It challenges the attitude that it's OK to force sex on a woman if she's drunk or provocative, or if she said yes and then changed her mind. That's one message that Biden hit hard.
BIDEN: Look, guys, no matter what a girl does, no matter how she's dressed, no matter how much she's had to drink, it's never, never, never, never, never OK to touch her without her consent. This doesn't make you a man. It makes you a coward.
GRANT: An expert in the field, Diane Rosenfeld of Harvard Law School, says the guidelines provide an excellent road map for schools that want to do the right thing. But they stop short of making prevention programs mandatory, something she'd like to see. And, she says, administrators must understand their own campus culture.
DIANE ROSENFELD: They just need to roll their sleeves up, talk to their students, figure out what is the environment on our campus - do we have pimp and ho parties. I mean, they're referring to women as somebody who exists for the sexual pleasure of men, and women participate in this because it's sexual culture on campuses.
GRANT: For NPR News, I'm Elaine Grant.
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