The absence of immediate oversight by parents and caretakers offers college students the freedom to make choices, develop personally and experiment. While these are natural and necessary components of maturing, they also create an environment susceptible to crime and victimization. Incidents of drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault and hate crimes are common on today’s college campuses.
Many youths experiment with alcohol and other drugs in their dormitories or at college parties. While underage consumption of alcohol or drugs is illegal, but not violent in nature, violence is often the result of such consumption.
The fastest growing population of rape victims is among students. Often considered “covered-up” crimes, rapists on college campuses have rarely been prosecuted. This is because many victims are discouraged by college authorities from reporting crimes to local law enforcement agencies and are encouraged instead to file complaints only with the campus justice systems. This practice protects the reputation of the school, but may increase the impact and consequences of the crime on the victim, who is often forced to continue living in the same facility as the perpetrator with little or no sense of justice done or punishment imposed.
Congress addressed this problem through two measures — the Student Right to Know Act of 1991, which requires college and universities to track crimes on campus and to report them to local police, and the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights of 1992, which provides criminal justice remedies for victims of sexual assault.
While fraternities promote self-improvement, they can also present an environment that promotes negative stereotypes, dangerous attitudes, and abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs. The result is that more college gang rapes occur at fraternity chapter houses than any other college location.
In addition to sexual crimes, some fraternity or sorority members abuse or attack pledges or other members under the guise of hazing. The absence of dorm advisors or house supervisors exacerbates the problem — combining little or no supervision with newfound freedoms.
From swastikas painted on doors and threatening telephone calls to violent personal attacks, the prevalence of hate crimes is increasing on college campuses. Colleges endeavor to assemble diverse student bodies and, for many students, this is their first true interaction with people of different cultural, religious, racial and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as different sexual orientations. When tolerance is challenged, violent expressions of contempt can result.
Institutional Response to Campus Crime
Many colleges and universities are rapidly becoming more concerned about the safety of their students. This has resulted from an increased awareness of the prevalence of campus crime, lawsuits against institutions for failure to protect, and pressure from students and college communities. Many schools are increasing lighting around campuses, enhancing security through better security equipment and more security officers, and establishing student crime-watch groups.
Students and colleges are also improving institutional responses to crime through measures such as:
- Establishing a cooperative response and action with local law enforcement;
- Providing support groups and counseling for victims:
- Promoting crime awareness and personal protection campaigns; and
- Developing stronger rules and regulations.
Yet more must be done to change behavior, and success can only be achieved through the combined efforts of students, parents, faculty, administration, communities and lawmakers.
When Students Become Crime Victims
Victims are encouraged to report the crime to authorities for many reasons, including:
- Many of the crime victim compensation programs (the governmental agencies that provide financial assistance to victims for aid in their physical and emotional recovery from violent crime) require immediate reporting to police;
- Authorities may be able to direct victims to further assistance.
- You may not be the only person this has happened to.
- Please note that although all crime victims are encouraged to report the crime, not everyone will feel comfortable entering the criminal justice process. The choice about whether or not to report belongs to the victim. Reporting is not required to receive crisis counseling or medical care.
Because being a crime victim can be both physically and psychologically traumatic in the short and long term, many victims seek the support of professionals throughout their recovery. Professional assistance, or referrals for assistance, may be available through the following resources:
- Campus residence hall staff;
- On/off campus crisis centers;
- School counseling services;
- Victim assistance programs;
- Community mental health agencies