In the United States, upwards of 400,000 rape kits go untested annually, while 63% of all sexual assaults go unreported. For every 1,000 perpetrators of rape, 994 walk free. Out of 1,000 perpetrators of assault and battery, 967 walk free. These figures represent the failure of the justice system in the United States. Despite having laws in place, such as the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Title IX, fewer and fewer perpetrators are being incarcerated, while the number of survivors speaking up is increasing.
Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, enacted in 1984, all victims of federal crimes shall be dealt with in a timely manner. Yet this is often not the case. The example of Alfredo Simon and his accuser, stands as example of how the courts fail the very people they are there to help. Despite filing very compelling evidence, including the video footage of the accuser’s rape, the U.S. Attorney’s Office claimed “insufficient evidence” in that case. Similarly, Title IX, created in 1972 to protect students from various forms of discrimination, including sexual assault and violence based on discrimination of sex, also fails many survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Laura Dunn, a student at the University of Wisconsin, reported a rape by two men in 2004 to the university. The investigation took nine months, only to determine that there wasn’t enough evidence, or a finding of “more likely than not” to punish the two perpetrators. When Dunn went to the Department of Education, they denied her request to find the university at fault for not acting in a timely-manner. After spending years of her life trying to hold her peers accountable, she gave up the legal fight.
Some universities go to the extreme in order to prevent funding cuts. Laura Dickinson was a student at Eastern Michigan University. After she was raped then murdered, the administrators disclosed her death as occurring from “natural causes.” While many victims of these crimes have the option to go to the police, only 7% do so. Two in three women report feeling too afraid to report to the police again. At this point, justice systems have been exhausted and there’s no one else to turn to, leading to more silence on the issue.
Time and time again, singular stories are published by local newspapers and online articles about sexual assaults and violence, in and out of universities, yet none of these stories have a start or end to connect them to one another. This makes it very hard for the general public to acknowledge the prevalence of sexual assaults and domestic violence, as well as flaws of justice in Title IX and the courts. There are no examples of corporate news stories on the prevalence of sexual assaults and domestic violence occurring on a grand scale, though newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times have run editorials that address the topic. The absence of a comprehensive database on the number of victims is deeply problematic, thwarting efforts toward improved news coverage on this issue.
Source: Sophia Resnick, “Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault, Failed by Criminal Justice System, Increasingly Seek Civil Remedies”, Rewire, January 08, 2016, https://rewire.news/article/2016/01/08/victims-rape-sexual-assault-failed-criminal-justice-system-increasingly-seek-civil-remedies/.
Student Researcher: Meia Freese (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)