ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Well, now to another story involving universities. A new law that goes into effect today mandates how colleges and universities handle sexual assaults. The Campus SaVE Act, which was part of the Violence Against Women Act, clarifies the rights of victims. It requires schools to teach how to prevent assaults, and the law challenges the assumption that the victim is a woman and the assailant is a man. As NPR's Joseph Shapiro explains, schools are now required to deal with same-sex rape.
JOSEPH SHAPIRO, BYLINE: John Kelly is a senior at Tufts University on a hilltop campus in the suburbs of Boston.
JOHN KELLY: So right now we are passing Goddard Chapel. We are sort of in the middle of - Isabelle. Hi. How are you? Just hanging out.
SHAPIRO: In August of 2012, just as he was starting his sophomore year, John Kelly says he was sexually assaulted in his dorm room by his ex-boyfriend. The dorm resident assistant, a witness, reported it. There's urgency in such cases to protect the victim from an assailant. That's why the U.S. Department of Education says schools should investigate allegations of sexual assault within two months. A campus misconduct board did rule that Kelly was sexually assaulted and suspended the ex-boyfriend, but it took four months.
KELLY: And I was told by a dean at Tufts that the reason it was taking so long was because I was a male survivor, because it was a same-sex assault and they didn't know how to deal with it.
SHAPIRO: Administrators at the school say they can't talk about individual cases, but that their policies make it clear that allegations of assault from all students, whatever their sexuality, will be handled with equal seriousness. And as of today, the new federal law tells all colleges and universities they have a clear responsibility to investigate allegations of same-sex assaults.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thanks, Michael. Bridgette.
SHAPIRO: Last spring a group of educators, government officials and advocates met around the conference table in Washington. Their job was to hash out the way the federal government would implement the Campus SaVE Act, which Congress passed in 2013.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Thanks. I'm not sure I read this section the same way that Michael did in that it seems...
SHAPIRO: The regulations change the definition of the sexual violence schools must deal with and recognizes that an assailant most likely is not a stranger, but probably an acquaintance or even a friend.
John Kelly was a student representative on the committee that wrote the new rules. He'd become an activist after his assault. Just this year, he's testified before Congress and spoke at the White House. He came to the session last spring to tell his story and make the case for expanding the definition of assault to include same-sex rape.
KELLY: I was, like, ready. I was fired up because, like, I had this big, like, impassioned plea ready based on my own personal experiences.
SHAPIRO: So it was a nice surprise to Kelly and the other advocates when a representative of the Department of Education said it had already decided to rewrite the definition.
KELLY: And so to be able to see the department, you know, with me in the room sort of say, we're not going to do that anymore - we're not going to define rape as only between a man and a woman, was a really, really cool thing.
SHAPIRO: One reason for the change was that the FBI recently changed its definition of rape. In 2013, the national system for reporting crimes, for the first time, included men or women as rape victims. Rape is vastly underreported by women and almost certainly more so by men.
CHRIS ANDERSON: In many communities in many populations, the very idea of being a man and being a victim are diametrically opposed to one another.
SHAPIRO: Chris Anderson runs a group called MaleSurvivor.
ANDERSON: First, there is the social pressure and the stigma against any man coming forward and saying that they have been a victim.
SHAPIRO: If they're gay or especially if they're not out or if they're straight.
ANDERSON: Second, you know, in many college communities - in fact in many communities around the country, there really are no services directed towards male victims at all or the ones that do exist oftentimes are actually housed in women's health centers. And many male victims feel each extraordinarily uncomfortable with walking into a women's health center and saying I've been sexually abused.
SHAPIRO: There are differences, too, in the kind of sexual violence directed at men on college campuses. Sometimes it's connected to hazing from a fraternity, a sports team or some other campus group. Anderson says hazing often gets dismissed by students and administrators, even when it turns sexual.
ANDERSON: As bad as it is to say this, oftentimes you'll hear people say, you know, well, it's a boys-will-be-boys situation in terms of well, this is just horseplay or this is part of the tradition of bringing pledges into a fraternity or this is how we build, you know, the team up.
SHAPIRO: With the new law there's new emphasis to teach men how they can step in and stop other men from assaulting women. Advocates like Anderson say the training has to go further and make it clear that men are victims too. Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.
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