On sexual assault: letters from the community

The University cannot objectively investigate sexual assault

The University's policy on sexual misconduct should require any University employee to report any allegation of rape (or other form of sexual assault) to the police. Failure to do so should be grounds for immediate dismissal of the employee. There are multiple reasons for this.

1) The University cannot be a truly disinterested party in its handling of sexual assault cases. It has an interest in limiting publicity about such cases, since such publicity affects its ability to attract students and generate revenue, and it is more subject to pressure than is the criminal justice system.

2) Rape is a violation not only of the woman who is raped but also of the norms of the community as expressed in the criminal law. Justice requires that such crimes be referred to the appropriate legal authorities. Failure to do so contributes to further erosion of respect for the law in both the University and the community.

3) As Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman observed in an interview reported in the Daily Progress, the police and prosecutors will respect a rape victim's wishes if she does not want them to press charges unless there is a clear risk of repeat offenses by the alleged rapist.

In addition, there should be a review by mental health professionals independent of the University of the adequacy of the treatment that the University's Student Health system provides to students who report having been raped. As the Rolling Stone article makes clear, rape victims are typically plagued by flashbacks, nightmares, depression and other symptoms of psychic trauma. The independent review should ascertain whether Student Health has an adequate number of clinicians who are well trained in appropriate treatments and are adequately supervised, and whether there are procedures for referring rape victims to independent therapists in the community when appropriate.

Robert S. ("Robin") Seiler, Jr., MSW

College of Arts and Sciences 1977

University Park, MD


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