How Does Syracuse University Handle Campus Assaults? See Through The Eyes Of 4 Victims

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Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Syracuse University during an “It’s On Us” event.  Photo: Mike Groll (AP)

Amber’s story

Syracuse was my first-choice school. I knew that I wanted to be an Orange before my campus tour was even over. SU felt like the place I was meant to be and I could not have been happier when I received my acceptance letter.

However, Syracuse became the most terrifying place in the world to me after I was raped in Park Point Apartments my freshmen year.

I sought justice first through the Syracuse Police Department. I received a rape kit at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital (which took five hours), answered the detectives’ questions, showed them Park Point, identified the assailant in a line-up, answered more questions, and waited. Three months later, a letter from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services told me that due to lack of sufficient evidence, my case was closed.

I could have appealed, but I didn’t have any hard evidence besides my rape kit (which was never tested). I gave up with law enforcement.

Another month of paranoia, depression and anxiety passed before a friend of mine connected me to Syracuse’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR), where I filed my case again.

The Syracuse University and New York State judicial processes are not easy for a rape victim to go through. I did both. Each can take months to reach a decision, and usually those months are flooded with rehashing the event to various people, answering questions that make one feel discouraged and doubted, and waiting… waiting… waiting to hear whether the school or state will punish the rapist. However, SU and New York have very different standards for evidence, so the outcomes for me with these two different justice systems were dramatically different.

Whereas criminal complaints require the highest standard of evidence, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” school disciplinary processes determine whether an allegation is “more likely than not” to have occurred. The University Conduct Board basically determines the result based on if they are at least 51 percent certain that “misconduct,” or rape, happened.

Under Title IX, schools must eliminate a “hostile environment” for any student, including rape victims. If a school does not eliminate the unsafe environment by removing the rapist or their accomplices in the rape from campus, and therefore prevent it from happening again, then they could lose their federal funding. Money makes the university go round, so it’s fair to say this is a great incentive for schools who are concerned about losing their cash flow.

Despite there being available resources, some victims of sexual assault, such as Chelsea*, choose not to report their rape because they don’t want to go through the prolonged emotional strain if nothing will come of it.

 

To report a sexual assault at Syracuse University, contact the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Pam Peter, at papeter@syr.edu, or call the main office at 315-443-3728.

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