By now, it's an established fact that college administrations are utterly inept at handling sexual assault allegations. For all those well-intentioned humans out there who think the best solution is to leave such cases in the hands of local law enforcement: turns out, the police are pretty damn terrible at appropriately responding to sexual assault allegations, too.

Anecdotal evidence of this sad truth abounds, and it's only reaffirmed in a recent New York Times report about the ways in which the Tallahassee police consistently — and seemingly intentionally — fail Florida State University students who say they've been raped.

According to the Times, there's a sinister pattern to the Tallahassee police department's handling of FSU student rape allegations: "After an accuser makes a police report and submits to a medical rape exam, the police ask if she wants them to investigate, and if she does not explicitly agree, they drop the case, often calling her uncooperative." (This was, notably, their excuse for wildly mismanaging the Jameis Winston allegations.) In no other type of alleged crime is the victim asked whether they'd like the police to go through with an investigation. In the words of Rebecca Campbell, a psychology professor at Michigan State, "If you have a property crime, they don't say: 'Would you like me to dust for fingerprints? Would you like me to canvass the area for witnesses?'"

Advertisement

Reports from city and university police departments show that "unless accusers say firmly that they want cases investigated and prosecuted, officers have called them uncooperative and called off investigations." Obviously, though, someone who was just sexually assaulted may not be capable of being adamant with law enforcement, especially if they seem skeptical of his/her testimony — and a good way to make someone feel doubted is to have an officer of the law say, "Are you SURE you want us to look into this? Like, totally certain?" In the words of one anonymous student whose case wasn't investigated after she was erroneously dubbed uncooperative: "I was raped and stressed and scared, something completely different from not cooperating."

Rape victims shouldn't have to tell the police to do their job. If someone reports a crime, police should investigate. Of course, that's much easier said than done because the entire system is pretty fucked — even if police were to stop putting the onus on sexual assault victims to decide for them whether they should do their jobs, that won't fix the other metastasized problems in the criminal justice system. That won't fix the insanely low reporting rates for sexual assault, that won't solve the infuriating rape kit backlog in our country, and that won't magically make law enforcement start believing rape victims.

This is why colleges needs their own adjudication processes. It's wildly unlikely that rape victims will see the smallest measure of justice if they report to the police, and the criminal justice system is far more resistant to reform than individual college administrations are. At the very least, comprehensive sexual assault policies on college campuses will allow survivors to get the accommodations they need — including revised schedules, the ability to move dorms, mental health resources and no-contact orders for their assailants.

Advertisement

In short, telling victims of campus rape to just report to police is a totally ineffective solution.

Image via Getty.