I’m willing to bet that everyone has heard of the Penn State scandal, even if they don’t know all the details. The story probably leaves you absolutely repulsed, but you may think that it doesn’t affect you. You’re wrong.
If you’re a woman who is in college, or you have a daughter, sister, cousin, friend or other family member in college, there’s something you need to know. Officials at Penn State knew about the sex abuse, and they chose to look the other way. They violated this thing called the Clery Act.
The Clery Act is a federal regulation that was enacted in 1990. It commands all colleges and universities to keep up a public log of all crimes reported to them. They must specify the nature of the crime (robbery, assault, rape, etc.), and when and where it occurred. It was created by the parents of Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her dorm at Lehigh University in 1986.
The mission of the act is to caution potential students on of the endangerment they might face when they apply for schools. The problem is that many schools give false numbers because they don’t want to seem like they are an unsafe place to live or a dangerous place to get an education. “There has been a very serious problem with many schools that have never complied with the legislation,” says former New York City prosecutor Linda Fairstein.
Under the Clery Act, the government will refuse funding from schools who don’t report all crimes, but it’s challenging to enforce. Many schools also try to influence women to not report crimes to the police, and to sugar coat the crimes if they do (sexual assault or misconduct instead of rape).
If you or a friend or relative have been a victim of a crime on campus, contact campus authorities as well as the local police. If campus officials discourage you from reaching out to the local authorities, contact someone higher up on campus (like the dean of student affairs), to report that person.
Ms. Fairstein is reaching out to make college campuses safer places for women. If you need guidance or want to report a violation to the Clery Act, click here to email her.