A revival is coming. I firmly believe that campus sexual violence will no longer be an issue easily swept under the rug due to tireless efforts by some amazing investigative journalists.
Almost four years ago the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) contacted me asking if they could use my case to highlight the mishandling of campus sexual assault. It took another year before a final interview, but I was blown away by the results of their investigation. CPI's investigative series called "A Frustrating Search for Justice" reviewed more than 33 cases over a 12 month period and revealed facts that shocked the nation. The impact of this investigation (assisted by NPR's coverage) landed them the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Award for Justice & Human Rights reporting. Ethel Kennedy revealed to award recipients that the issue was near and dear to her heart since a close friend in college was sexually assault. In addition to this award the series has received the following:
1. The 70th Annual Peabody Award - for their collaboration with NPR
2. The Dart Award for Exceptional Reporting on Trauma
3. The Philip Meyer Award for Exceptional Journalism using Social Science Research Tools (2nd place)
4. The Multimedia Award from the Association of Health Care Journalists (3rd place)
5. The Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, from the Society of Professional Journalists
In addition to this nationwide investigation Wisconsin Watch undertook one specifically focused on my beloved alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. There series called, "Suffering in Silence Series", took the time to do the math on campus sexual assault and highlighted the case of a good friend of mine who suffered along side me during college, but has obviously refused silence.
The most important result of all this was that the U.S. Department of Education paid attention and released a new Title IX Guidance that will be the standard used for complaints against universities. In addition to this landmark the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act promises to update the Jeanne Clery Act so that sexual and intimate partner violence proceedings are fair and equitable for both parties.
A revival is coming. Indeed, it is already underway thanks to the efforts of the following journalists: Kristen Lombardi, David Donald, Kristin Jones, and Gordon Witkin (Center for Public Integrity); Joseph Shapiro, Robert Benincasa, and Susan Reber (NPR), Kate Golden, Alex Morrell and Sara Jerving (Wisconsin Watch)
The Campus SaVE Act (S.83) is a piece of legislation near and dear to my heart. This week it was reintroduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) in partnership with Security on Campus, Inc. (SOC). I was honored to be one of many individuals and organization able to provide input on the legislation, which will change the way many universities handle cases of sexual violence.
SOC is a great non-profit born out of the horrific rape, torture and murder of Jeanne Clery in April 1986. This tragedy occurred in Jeanne's dorm early in the morning at the hands of a fellow student who entered her room and ended her life. Her parent's heart break turned into an organization that has since enacted the Jeanne Clery Act, the Campus Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights, and several other pieces of legislation that are the foundation of how universities address crimes on their campuses.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to SOC, which reached out to me when I first publicly exposed the University of Wisconsin's (UW) handling of my rape. They informed me of one last avenue of justice available to me: filing a civil rights complaint with the Department of Education against the UW. If I had never taken this crucial step in seeking justice my story could not have been used to highlight the severe indifference in which institutions deal with the sexual violation of college women. It may seem odd to be thankful for such a fact, but it is now the most powerful part of my story. Truly no level of the justice system was there for me, nor has it been there for many women before me or since.
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