Experts say sexual assaults, including rape, are commonplace on college campuses despite efforts by schools to prevent crimes from happening. When they occur, it’s often up to disciplinary panels to respond.
But in many cases, those panels are better equipped to deal with things like cheating or vandalism than incidents of rape. As a result, criticism of these panels is growing and so some schools are looking beyond campus to experts like Anne Munch.
Munch was a prosecutor in Colorado and worked on the state’s Ending Violence Against Women project. She now consults with universities and the military on dealing with and preventing incidents of sexual violence.
Munch sometimes steps in to work as an independent investigator, one who is sensitive to the intricacies of sexual assault cases. For example, she says victims' behavior can easily be misconstrued. During a rape, a victim can go into a state of shock where she or he is not able to run away, according to Munch. To an outsider, that can look like the victim consented.
The presence of alcohol can also lead to confusion about whether a victim gave consent. Munch says too often alcohol is used as an excuse to exonerate an aggressor.
There are many consequences of administrative panels that come across as unresponsive or insensitive to victims, according to Munch. One is that other victims are then more hesitant to come forward and report when rapes happen.