Four Years Too Long

Four years. It took four years for the University of Michigan to make the right decision on how to handle a student who sexually assaulted a fellow student. Four long years.  Long enough for Brendan Gibbons to graduate, to apply and be accepted into a U of M graduate program, to play numerous football games for the Wolverines, and to celebrate football victories.

Imagine what those same four years were like for the survivor of his assault.  Four years of not being believed, of waiting for a decision, of alleged threats by Gibbons teammate, of watching her rapist idolized as a U of M Wolverine. I don’t know the young woman and her personal story but I know many other college women who have experienced a sexual assault and they often have had to change colleges, drop out of school, lose scholarships, and experience harassment from other students.

The victim’s four years sounds very different from the abuser.

In the recently released White House Council on Women and Girls report, Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action, it is reported that 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college. Sexual assault is a crisis for college campuses but unfortunately many of them are still very slow to respond and to make the changes necessary to protect their students.

I’m feeling a bit optimistic about the outpouring of outrage regarding Gibbons and the long slow journey U of M took.  At the same time, we have seen such outrage before and then change occurs. So join me in keeping the conversation going. It is time for another who has a child in college to contact the administration and ask for concrete steps the university is taking to protect its student population from rape.

It is time for those currently touring college campuses with their high school seniors, male and female, to ask direct questions about safety and accountability on campus and require written proof of policy and procedures not just vague sugarcoated answers. It is time for all of us to contact our college alumni associations, local colleges and universities, and local school districts and ask for their response to this crisis on campus.

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