Sex Crimes Reported on Campus Seldom Prosecuted as Felonies

December 6, 2011  |  

It’s often difficult for women, especially on college campuses, to report that they were victims of sexual assault, and low prosecution rates certainly don’t do much to convince women that coming forward is worth the shame and embarrassment they often feel.

A report into 16 colleges and universities in the Chicago area found that sex crimes reported on the campuses are rarely prosecuted as felonies. Out of more than 100 incidents reported since 2005, only 12 resulted in arrests, five in convictions, and most potential felonies were downgraded to misdemeanors—an act that is often viewed as an insult to victims.

“A misdemeanor battery is the same charge you’d get if you punched someone in the face,” Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates, told The Chicago Tribune. “To have any kind of conviction is something positive, I can’t deny that. But it’s such a qualified success. We’d like to see more felony charges.”

Earlier this year, The Tribune reported similar results from a June survey of six schools in Illinois and Indiana. Of the 171 reported sex crimes police investigated since 2005, there were only 12 arrests and four convictions.

The arrest and conviction rates in the Midwest and Cook County surveys were far below the average for rapes reported nationally, which suggests other states pursue sex crimes more aggressively, but it seems as though victims may be getting violated all over again in these cases which typically boil down to one person’s word against the others.

Did you often hear about sex crimes occurring on your college campuses? Were perpetrators ever convicted of their crimes? Why do you think the conviction rate is so low?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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