Now flip this around and look at how victims are treated. Most victims of violent crime who report to the police are treated with dignity and it is assumed that they are indeed victims. An officer is assigned to the case and an investigation is started, a prosecutor will get involved if a perpetrator is identified. Victims of rape on a college campus are often stigmatized, demeaned and called liars by authority figures including campus police and administration officials work hard to avoid investigating the crime let alone prosecuting the perpetrator.
Even when a 20 year old college man is prosecuted for a campus rape much is made of their potential and attempts are made to excuse the behavior as a youthful mistake that shouldn’t cost them their future. We don’t treat 16 year old members of urban street gangs that way, instead we want them punished as adults and given harsh sentences. Why, what’s the difference? The answer is usually the gang member is black or Latino and poor while the fraternity member is usually white and often from a privileged background.
In the 1990’s when violent urban crime peaked 7.4 percent of urban residents reported being victims of violent crime. The response by the public was to demand action and District Attorneys have been running for office with “tough on crime” as their slogans ever since. By 2016, only 2.9 percent reported being victims of violent crimes but “tough on crime” is still demanded by the public.
A nationwide survey of 27 universities conducted for the 2014-2015 academic year found that 16.9 percent of female freshmen reported being victims of non-consensual sexual contact by force and incapacitation. In the same study 27.2 percent of senior women reported being victims of inappropriate sexual contact over the course of their collegiate life. Where is the call for “tough on campus crime”?
During the Obama administration an effort to was made to address campus sexual violence and funds allocated toward that goal, recently current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos terminated that program. She claimed the Obama-era guidelines represented federal overreach by putting an undue burden on accused students to defend themselves.
Even though violent crime is 60% lower than it was two decades ago Trumpian Republicans have recently declared war on gangs. In an October 2017 address Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of violence that threatens too many of our communities.”
Professor Kindi doesn’t offer solutions but he does ask us to expand on the question that is the title to his essay. I would ask, how about we spend less effort on a problem we’ve already largely resolved and more effort on one that we’ve hardly scratched the surface on? How about we treat adolescent boys of color a little more like white adult men on college campuses and white men more like those adolescent boys?
Published in the Seguin Gazette May 20, 2018