Letters: How to better protect against campus sexual assault

SHARE Letters: How to better protect against campus sexual assault
SHARE Letters: How to better protect against campus sexual assault

As college graduation season approaches, it is a time of great joy and celebration for thousands of Illinois families.

But for too many undergraduate women, the promises of graduation day are replaced by pain and loss.

Sexual violence has become a part of the college experience for an alarming number of young women and some men on campuses in Illinois and across the country. One in five undergraduate women will become a victim of sexual assault before they graduate.In fact, the U.S. Department of Education reports that women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault of any group of women.

Yet these crimes are rarely reported to authorities. Over 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported because survivors do not trust that authorities will believe them, much less that their attackers will be brought to justice.

Sadly, they are not wrong. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported over 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2013. However, 41 percent of colleges and universities surveyed by the Department of Justice have not conducted a single investigation of sexual violence on their campus in the last five years.

Even when incidents of sexual violence are reported, assailants are rarely held accountable. In fact, three quarters of the students found responsible for sexual assault remain enrolled and on campus. Currently, 101 universities are under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for alleged violations of Title IX related to the handling of sexual violence.

As elected officials and as mothers, this is unacceptable. We can and must do more to protect young women. Vice President Joe Biden visited the University of Illinois last Thursday to stress just that. We hope that by focusing on this issue at our state’s flagship university, it will encourage our state legislators to support a bill currently in Springfield that will ensure colleges and universities become part of the solution to this epidemic. The Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus Act seeks to provide a framework to help Illinois higher education institutions comply with federal laws and set standards to prevent and respond to sexual violence, so that every student in Illinois is protected under the fullest extent of the law.

The college experience should be about achieving a higher education. Instead, for thousands of young women, it is the beginning of a lifelong struggle that can be overcome but never forgotten.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson

State Rep. Michelle Mussman

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com (Please include the name of your neighborhood or town, and a phone number for verification purposes.)

Don’t increase limits on decongestant

Recently, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America released their list of the most challenging places to live with spring allergies in 2015 and of course, Chicago was on the list. This is no surprise to me because my allergies always flare up in the spring. I depend on medicine containing pseudoephedrine to get through the allergy season. However, some lawmakers in our state are pushing to increase restrictions on who can purchase allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, all because there are a small group of bad actors who misuse the decongestant to make crystal meth.

Our Legislature has already enacted policies that target these criminals. Additional proposals that would require allergy sufferers like me to make a doctor’s appointment to get pseudoephedrine would have a tremendously negative impact, causing our lives to become much more complicated with unnecessary hassles.

Kelly Zenere, Old Town

No excuse for mob action

Are we a civilized society? What’s the difference between a lawful protest and mob action? What’s happening in Baltimore today is mob action and should not be tolerated in a civilized society. We know that a young man had his neck broken in police custody, justice is coming, but for law enforcement to now treat mob action like a legitimate protest only leads to anarchy and a break down of a civilized society.

Tom Ploski, Mt. Prospect

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