EDITORIAL: Take campus assault seriously

York Dispatch

For parents, there are few things more fraught with emotion than leaving a young adult freshman child at a college campus, alone and left to their own devices, hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.

We hope we have remembered to impart all the wisdom we could. Truth is, parenting is complicated and often times our kids have to live their lessons before they absorb them.

On a college campus, that learning comes amid new freedom — freedom that can sometimes be dangerous.

That's why we are pleased to see that the Clery Act will be expanded on with new legislation introduced by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., called Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

The legislation requires colleges to do more to be transparent and accountable, and it requires them to educate students about dating violence, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and stalking.

These crimes have plagued campuses for decades. The Clery Act is named after Jeanne Clery, raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986.

According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 20 percent of young women who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted.

The problem of colleges being woefully unprepared to handle violent assault crime on campuses was starkly illustrated in a July 2014 investigation by The New York Times.

Investigative journalists discovered that upstate New York colleges Hobart and William Smith's "internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual-assault experts and college officials, depict a school ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence."

The investigation centered on a young woman's allegations of rape against members of the college's football team. The woman, who faced retaliation for speaking out, was left without support and advocacy; the players went on with their lives.

Colleges take our tuition money, and we hand over our children for safe keeping. Just as we expect they will help cultivate the minds and characters of these young adults for the next chapter of their lives, we expect they will educate students about alcohol abuse, sexual crimes and other serious issues they will likely face on campus.

We expect they will protect our children.

And when crimes are committed, it is the college's responsibility to work with law enforcement to see that justice is served. No more stories about football players accused of misconduct who then go on to win championships while their victims are further victimized by a system that turns a blind eye to sexual assault, categorizing it as college shenanigans.

As a community of parents and students, we must demand that awareness around this issue stay in the forefront of the public consciousness.

We are hopeful the Campus SaVE Act and its expansion on the Clery Act will result in the accountability of criminals and colleges.

It's time to stop dismissing violence on college campuses.

They must be safe spaces where young people, particularly young women, can be educated without fear of sexual assault.