On sexual assault: letters from the community

Let the legal system handle it

Dear Rector George Keith Martin,

As a member of the faculty of The University of Virginia, I welcome, finally, your message to us today, on the evening of November 20th. You state that rape “should be punished as a crime under applicable law,” that “we must do everything possible to ensure that the opportunity for a timely and appropriate law enforcement response is maximized.” You lead us in the right direction. Rape is a crime.

Rape is a crime everywhere in this nation. On college and university campuses it is possible for rape not to be treated as a crime. As you state, at our university a victim of rape can file either a “criminal or administrative complaint.”

We should not harbor administrative complaints of criminal behavior. Colleges and universities cannot adjudicate crime. Only law enforcement institutions can. The administrative complaint must be eliminated.

To protect and support our students who come to us as victims of sexual assault, we should encourage them to seek assistance at our hospital as soon as they can. They can file a criminal complaint or decide not to do so. This is a decision no one can take easily. Nor is it a decision they need to take immediately. They are our students. As teachers and role models, we are in a singular position to support them over the days and weeks as they decide what to do.

The University should work together with the Charlottesville and Albemarle police departments to assure that our students are treated by law enforcement officers with the respect and dignity that all human beings deserve. We are fortunate in this city and in this county to have highly professional police departments.

As we now know too well, administrative complaints have served to coddle the perpetrators of rape more often than not. We have made it possible for the perpetrators of rape to walk free too often on our Grounds. This needs to stop. The legal system determines culpability.

Herbert Braun

Department of History


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