Quick Hit: Harvard students angered by administration’s approach to sexual assault

Harvard Yard

Harvard’s student paper, the Crimson, has published a story detailing the concerns of survivors of sexual violence on the school’s Cambridge campus. The piece includes a now all-too-familiar narrative of opaque disciplinary procedures, widespread denial, and victims who found nothing more than shame and alienation from the boards set-up to respond to their complaints.

Staff writers Reina A.E. Gattuso and Jessica Salley also delved into the legal incentives that encourage university’s reluctance to pursue complaints:

[Student survivor] Julie says she believes the results of her case [in favor of her assailant] represented a fear of action on the part of the institution.“I think it’s just that they’re scared. I really do think that they are afraid that, if they make the wrong decision…they’re going to get all this legal action,” she says.

Liz Canner, a filmmaker currently documenting the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, also points to fear of legal action as a potential reason why universities in general are hesitant to punish perpetrators.

“There have been lawsuits against schools around sexual assault and how it’s handled, not so much from the victim…but it tends to be that it’s the perpetrators and the perpetrators’ family that take out law suits against the school,” she says.

This threat of legal action, says Canner, means that university decisions often favor assailants over victims. “A lot of universities are risk-averse, and because it’s perpetrators who are suing, in some ways things are leaning towards the perpetrators,” she says.

You can read the full article here.

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