“It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players.”

Anna

Photo credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

The New York Times has another damning in-depth investigation into a college’s handling of a rape complaint. Like their recent report on Florida State University, this report on Hobart and William Smith Colleges tells a familiar tale of student assaulted on campus and then failed by her college. 

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

A New York Times examination of the case, based in part on hundreds of pages of disciplinary proceedings — usually confidential under federal privacy laws — offers a rare look inside one school’s adjudication of a rape complaint amid a roiling national debate over how best to stop sexual assaults on campuses.

Whatever precisely happened that September night, the internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual-assault experts and college officials, depict a school ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence. As the case illustrates, school disciplinary panels are a world unto themselves, operating in secret with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused.

At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

Anna, the freshman who was assaulted, also went through hell after reporting. She said the school hearing “was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through.” But she’s planning to return to Hobart and William Smith in the fall. “Someone needs to help survivors there,” she explains. Read the rest here.

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