Sexual assault on campus

Students and professors at American University interviewed this month shared their opinions on how security measures affect college rape culture and the prevalence of sexual assault on their own campuses and nearby housing in Northwest Washington D.C.

Campus rape is a problem plaguing universities and colleges across the country, and it’s receiving attention from many here. Almost everyone interviewed at AU in July said that the university’s administrative response could use improvement, but noted offenses occur off campus, too.

“I don’t think it’s a campus safety issue because from my experience with it, it’s all been acquaintance rape, date rape, happening at parties,” said Jessica Kowal, a 20-year-old AU student. “It’s not someone walking back to their dorm late at night and someone jumping out the bushes.”

Both Kowal and Carolyn Hamilton, also 20, shared personal stories detailing their dissatisfaction with administrative response. Both say they knew women who had been assaulted.

“It’s very prevalent,” Hamilton said.

But Amy Eisman, 62, who teaches in the journalism division, feels that perhaps the deficiency of effective response is due to the sheer magnitude of the problem.

“My perception is that the university is doing what it can,” Eisman said. “But it’s a huge issue that I’m not sure anybody has a great handle on yet.”

Stalls in every campus bathroom display a poster providing information for victims of sexual assault and contact information for support networks. Many of these posters also include handwritten notes that students have left each other. One scratched out the word “survivor” and wrote “victim.”

A sign posted inside a bathroom stall at American University. Photo by Zoe Searles.

A sign posted inside a bathroom stall at American University. Photo by Zoe Searles.

“You are stronger than you know,” one reads.

The University offers sexual assault information on its website. IDs are required for entrance into the dorms, emergency telephone poles can be found every several hundred yards and safety patrol officers are stationed on campus around the clock.

There are peer support groups, of which the students interviewed spoke highly.

These groups are not limited to female discussion; Jaques Foul, 25, said that he doesn’t think males are left out of the conversation.

“I think we’re all responsible if something happens,” Foul said.