The obstacles facing victims of sexual violence are numerous. Too many schools have failed to take their complaints seriously or to treat them with respect and sympathy. Some schools have sought to sweep problems under the rug, by underreporting assaults to the federal government or by failing to take action against perpetrators. Title IX, the federal antidiscrimination law, requires investigations of assault allegations, yet in California alone, USC, Occidental College and
Simply by establishing a task force, the president has raised the profile of the problem. But now the panel needs to grapple with issues of campus prevention, tougher on-school policies toward offenders and stricter enforcement of those policies. Among other things, campuses need mandatory educational programming for incoming students.
Studies show rapists on campuses are often repeat offenders. The task force could examine how campuses can make sure that someone found by authorities to be responsible for rape is expelled — not suspended, not given community service. At the same time, the panel could help colleges find the important but tricky balance between vigorously pursuing sexual assault allegations and ensuring the rights of the accused.