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Harvard Panel Recommends New Sexual Assault Policy

A report issued last week by a Harvard panel urged the college to change its current controversial sexual assault policies to include more education and a more efficient review process. The panel recommended new education programs for all students and the creation of a single office that addresses sexual misconduct issues, according to the Washington Post. In reaction to the report, Harvard students expressed concern about how the new recommendations would be achieved. Committee members advised that community pressure would be needed to keep the proposal on track The Harvard Crimson reported.

Harvard University came under fire last spring when the faculty unanimously voted that students filing sexual assault charges must provide “sufficient, corroborating evidence” of misconduct before the board will examine the incident, according to Women’s E-News. “To my knowledge, this is not only the only school that in practice mistreats women—retaliates against them, in fact—but Harvard is the first school to put in writing that the word of a woman is not good enough,” Wendy Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor who is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, told Women’s ENews. In 2002, the disciplinary board acted in only one sexual assault case while a survey by student health services found over 200 cases of rape and attempted rape, according to a Harvard student group Coalition Against Sexual Violence, as reported in the Washington Post.

Georgetown University’s sexual assault policy is also being questioned after a complaint was filed with the federal government last month. Kate Dieringer, a Georgetown sophomore who was raped last year, claims the University violated her right to find out what action the school had taken against her rapist by making her sign a confidentiality agreement, according to Forensic Nurse Magazine. Under federal law, that information must be provided unconditionally. “Georgetown’s policy of silencing rape victims serves only to perpetuate this crime of silence,” said S. Daniel Carter a victim advocate with Security On Campus, Inc., according to Forensic Nurse. Currently the complaint is under review, Forensic Nursereports.

In order to increase awareness regarding sexual assault issues, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is urging people to call and mail their representatives asking them to support a resolution that officially declares April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The resolution will help raise the profile of the issue and lead to more media coverage and legislative action, according to NOW. The Senate has already passed the resolution; it will now go to the House.

TAKE ACTION Urge your representative to become a sponsor of the resolution to officially declare April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

MS. IN-DEPTH Harvard Stumbles Over Rape Reporting

Media Resources: Washington Post 4/17/03; The Harvard Crimson 4/24/03; Forensic Nurse Magazine 3/4/03; Women’s E-News 12/8/02; National Organization for Women April, 2003

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