Combating Sexual Assault on University Campus

When teenagers select universities to attend, they assume that their school will protect and take care of them if something horrible occurs. Hannah was no different when she decided to attend Howard University in 2006.

But on a Friday night of her sophomore year, she realized how deeply misplaced her trust in the school was. On that night, Hannah and her friends went to a fellow student’s house party.

It was a typical college evening filled with dancing and laughter, but it wasn’t until the party began to wind down that Hannah’s friends noticed she was missing. Hannah was always very safety conscious and never wandered off alone, so her friends were immediately worried and began frantically looking for her in the house.

They called her name and searched the entire first floor. Hannah was nowhere to be found.

They tried to go upstairs to search the second floor, but a man grabbed them and forced them down the stairs. He said that nobody was allowed to go upstairs.

Hannah’s friends argued with him. They screamed her name and threatened to call the police.

Just as the situation was escalating, Hannah appeared at the top of the stairs. She was a mess.

She was confused, and she was barely able to walk or to speak. The girls took Hannah by the arms and immediately left the house.

Something really awful had happened to her, so they rushed her to the Howard University emergency room. Here is where the university system completely failed her.

When the doctor finally came to see Hannah, he told her she was too drunk and she should go home and just sleep it all off. The friends begged the doctor to give her a rape kit, but he just refused and sent them away.

This is malpractice. Rape kits can provide critically important evidence in sexual assault cases, especially cases where the victim has been drugged. When Hannah woke up the next morning, she was in so much pain she could barely walk, so she called the police and returned to the university emergency room for a rape kit.

But because Hannah couldn’t remember exactly what happened and who her assailant was, the police and the hospital staff again refused to conduct a rape kit. The purpose of a rape kit is to find out who the assailant was.

Desperate and denied any assistance from her own university, Hannah still reached out for help. She went to George Washington University Hospital, but they told her that, since she was denied a rape kit at Howard University, she was not allowed to get one at this hospital.

Hannah sought help and was rejected at every turn. This is tragic.

Most of us have kids. A lot of them go to universities—all four of mine did; three of them are girls—and we expect universities to do something to protect those students when a crime is committed against them.

The doctors and medical staff at both university hospitals were apparently not trained to deal with traumatized rape victims, and they were clearly ignorant of how important forensic evidence is after an assault. So to ensure this doesn’t happen to more victims, I have introduced legislation that would require a university to provide access to a nurse or a doctor who is properly trained to provide medical care for trauma rape victims or have a plan in place to quickly get a victim to a nearby hospital.

Universities must have a plan in place or have access to a staffer. This bill is named the Megan Rondini Act in honor of another college rape victim from Texas, who was at the University of Alabama.

She was denied proper post-rape treatment at a hospital. Eventually, she took her own life because of the fact that no one paid attention to her.

This bill will ensure victims can access the care they need. Having a SAFE, sexual assault forensic examiner, or a SANE, sexual assault nurse examiner, for rape victims at universities ensures that rape kits are properly examined and collected.

Universities not only need to have access to a SAFE, but they need to have a victim advocate trained in sexual assault on campus, and all rape kits from students and nonstudents must be quickly analyzed so that the offender can be determined. There are thousands of rape kits all over the country sitting on police shelves that just haven’t been examined.

This is awful. Hannah was denied justice because of incompetence.

Victims are people, too, and schools, especially, should be prepared to deal with sexual assault victims; otherwise, there will be more victims like Hannah.

And that is just the way it is.


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