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Rape Cases Common On College Campuses

By Jessica Stewart

Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress around campus as a "performance art" piece to call attention to the fact that her rapist hasn't been expelled. Emma is scene carring her mattress to class on Wednesday Sept. 3, 2014. Photos by Kristy Leibowitz.

In August 2012, on Columbia-University’s campus, senior Emma Sulkowicz accused fellow student Paul Nungesser of rape. Nungesser was cleared by the campus court and was allowed to continue attending classes. Emma began toting her mattress around campus to protest the way Colombia University adjudicated her case.

In December 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she was raped. The accused, star quarterback Jameis Winston, was identified and never charged. A Florida-State-University hearing cleared Winston of violating the student-conduct code. He will participate in the 2015 NFL draft.

In 2013, Vanderbilt football players raped a 21-year-old female student who attended the University. The woman was unconscious at the time of the attack and had no memory of the event. The football players took video and photos of the attack, which were used to convict them at trial. Branden Vandenberg and Corey Batey faced 15 to 80 years in prison, and the 21-year-old victim transferred to another university.

In August 2013, 22-year-old-Brown-University student Lena Sclove reported that she had been sexually assaulted and choked. The university Student Conduct Board found the assailant guilty on four charges that included sexual violence and physical harm. His punishment was a one-year suspension from school.

Sexual assault cases are cropping up at more college campuses around the world. Some universities take responsibility and handle the matter accordingly, while others brush it under the rug.


Emma Sukowicz stands with her mattress. — Courtesy of

“Saying that colleges are not equipped to handle these types of cases is a generalized statement,” said Maryanne Koleny, Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator at Pitt-Greensburg.

“There are some universities that are not prepared because they are focused on recruiting, the money, or their bottom line, and then there are other universities who handle it accordingly,” she said. “I think Pitt-Greensburg would handle it accordingly.”

Colony said the purpose of Title IX is to keep the educational environment free from sexual discrimination, which includes sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, and date rape. It covers those crimes both on and off campus when it relates to the university.

Having the courage to report sexual assault can be difficult, since confidentiality cannot always be guaranteed. However, “it is very important to file a report,” Kevin Gillilan, Chief of Pitt-Greensburg Campus Police, said, “because it is an ongoing situation and because it is good from a safety perspective, so officers can assure the safety of all students.”

According to the Pitt-Greensburg Annual Security and Fire Report for Fall 2014, there have not been any reported cases of rape on the campus in the last three years.

“It could be low because of the size of the campus, and the good recruiting of students,” Gillilan said.

According to the Department of Justice, the rate of rape and sexual assault for students is 6.1 per every 1,000 people. In 80 percent of those cases, the victim knows the offender. A report by the Department of Justice in 2000 said that “a college with 10,000 students could experience as many as 350 rapes per year.”

The 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) stated that 75-percent of women who reported being raped were under 25 years old.

“We live in a society where we think ‘no’ means ‘maybe later’ and ‘maybe later’ means ‘yes,'” said Pitt-Greensburg sophomore Nichole Johnson, a member of Students Against Sexual Violence. “In a world that thinks consent isn’t necessary, a lot of Universities don’t want sexual assault on record, to hurt their reputation. I don’t believe Pitt-Greensburg is one of those Universities. I think we have the people and the resources to handle it on our campus.”

Emma Sulkowicz wanted the support of Columbia University, but instead the administration allowed Paul Nungesser to stay enrolled at the school. The 21-year-old woman at Vanderbilt University might not have been a victim of sexual assault if one of the many witnesses stepped in to stop it. There might have been a different outcome for the freshman at Florida State University, if her case was handled correctly. Lena Sclove at Brown University has to find a way to accept the slap on the wrist her assailant received from the University.

“The attention coming to the issue of campus sexual assault and Title IX is not because it is getting worse,” said Gayle Pamerleau, Director of Pitt-Greensburg’s Counseling Center. “It is because the cases that have happened already are being brought to the forefront and to the attention of the government–Federal attention reminding Universities and Colleges they need to do a better job.

“There are many resources on campus to help students who have been assaulted. We have the counseling center, health center, police officers, no-contact orders, room relocations, and a change in class schedule if necessary,” Pamerleau said. “The Blackburn Center is also a great resource, they provide legal and hospital advocates to be there through the whole process with the victim and they do not have to report anything the victim doesn’t want reported.”

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