msnbc News   |  August 11, 2013

The fight to end sexual assaults on college campuses

With nearly one in five college women experiencing sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, Yale University graduate Alexandra Brodsky and S. Daniel Carter, a college and university campus safety advocate, talk with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin about efforts to end sexual violence on college campuses.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to an unspoken epidemic in this country. nearly 1 in 5 college women, 18%, experienced a sexual assault , or an attempted sexual assault since starting college . just this friday, four former vanderbilt football players were indicted on five counts of aggravated rape of an unconscious 21-year-old student inside a campus dorm room back in june. earlier this month yale university released its semiannual report showing that from january to june this year six students were found guilty of nonconsensual sex. none of those students were expelled. just one was suspended. alexander is a yale graduate, also a current yale law student, and s. dale carter is part of the national campus safety initiative. alexandra, you and 15 other folks filed a complaint, back in 2011 , which found that yale failed to properly report sexual vi rent crimes. where do you believe that universities are failing specifically survivors of sexual assault ?

>> i think the real problem is schools are viewing sexual violence are looking at it as a branding. they're always trying to keep the story quiet. they're telling people, don't report this violence, don't go to the police. and that means they don't really have the interest of the survivor at heart. they have the interests of the school's admissions statistics and fund-raising.

>> how much of this is about a culture at many of these colleges and universities that facilitates this kind of behavior? and this kind of response as well.

>> very much so both from the student culture, where i think often students feel like you're allowed to make mistakes in college and there are never repercussions for that. when people know that students who cheat are suspended for longer than two weeks, than students who rape their classmates, that sends a clear message that sexual violence is not big a deal.

>> there are currently 28 students under scrutiny related to title 9 violations including dartmouth, the university of north carolina , princeton, harvard law school as well. is there a correlation between these abuses, and some of the most prominent colleges and universities in america?

>> well, actually, there's 29, under investigation for title 9 , another 14 for investigation under the federal cleary act . and what we've seen over the years is that while certainly the ivy league schools are getting a lot of attention, this is really an issue that affects colleges and universities across the board. and we've seen that the 2009 - 2010 investigation by national public radio bringing that to light. it's a widespread issue.

>> the sexual violence elimination act, or s.a.v.e. as it's known, daniel, it takes effect next academic year. what will that piece of legislation do?

>> the s.a.v.e. expands reporting requirements to include intimate partner violence and stalking. it also expands victims' rights. procedural rights for conduct hearings. and most importantly, it requires institutions to offer primary prevention education. which is basically treating -- instead of treating the disease, it inoculates against it. we want to change the culture that tolerates sexual violence so we can actually begin to cut down on these numbers. you mentioned that as many as 1 in 5 females are the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their time at college . only 5% of those are reported. that's because of the cultural barriers they meet. we want to start changing those cultural barriers so more victims will come forward and we can start addressing this problem so we can have fewer incidents in the first place.

>> alexandria, you wrote something that i think should probably be required reading for all young ladies about to start college , or university in this country. i want to put a snippet up on the screen. this is what you wrote about. when you tried to report an attempted rape , you say in part, i was told to be a good girl. and for four years, i listened, because of our insistence on the fem nimity of victims, even male and genderqueer survivors are held to the good girl standard. what is a good girl standard?

>> i think in all parts of our lives, both in terms of sexual violence and outside of that, women are always taught to be accommodating, to make the lives of the men in our lives as easy as possible. at a certain point, we have to be loud and angry. that's the only way that we're going to make sure that our future is safer.

>> what specifically would you like to see schools do now that they're not doing to help students like yourself, to prevent things like this from happening in the future?

>> it sounds basic, but we've got to expel rapists on our campuses. a lot of research has shown that the average college rapist offends six times.

>> six times?

>> six times. that means taking serious disciplinary action against these students isn't just an issue of justice for previous survivors, but making sure this doesn't happen again in the future by the same students.

>> daniel, you hit on something a moment ago that i think bears repeating to a certain extent here. the numbers that we use, these are reported figures. we really don't have a clue how many of these sexual assaults and atemd sexual assaults go unreported on college campuses?

>> when you look at a college , you need to look well beyond the numbers. you need to start asking questions. that's one of the thing the 32 national safety initiatives will do. they need to ask, do you have primary prevention education? do you have an office on campus dedicated to prevention and response to sexual violence ? and these are the types of questions that really need to be asked, not just looking at whether or not a school has high or low sexual assault numbers. because that doesn't really tell the truth.

>> with a lot of folks getting ready to return to school, we wanted to have this conversation. alexandria, s. daniel carter, thank you for being a part of it.