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Several Barriers When Students Report Sexual Assaults On Campus

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By Alex Keefe

A majority of students sexually assaulted on campus do not report the crimes. And according to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity, those who do could face several barriers.

Kathryn Russell says her nightmare began when she was raped in her dorm room at the University of Virginia. Things got worse when she tried to get her alleged attacker expelled. At the school's disciplinary hearing, she had to argue her own case in the same room with the student accused of raping her. "I died. And I had to rebuild everything," says Russell. "And you can't rebuild, and fight, and deal with school, and hide from the guy who attacked you, and try to do all these things at once."

Kristen Lombardi, who worked on the reports, found Russell's isn't an isolated case. "We found that students face, you know, a depressing litany of barriers that often either assure their silence or leave them feeling victimized a second time," says Lombardi.

Lombardi says many women didn't report assaults because they'd been drinking when it happened. She says even those who did sometimes faced administrators who discouraged them from pursuing a hearing.

In the end, the school found Russell's alleged rapist "not responsible." She later dropped out. Russell says hearings like hers, which are often closed to the public, should be more transparent. "I don't think that they should be broadcast on TV, but they need to be open in the sense that you aren't afraid to talk about it," says Russell. "You really should have a representative who is trained, as well, in sexual assault, and how to argue a case like this."

The Justice Department estimates one in five female students will be sexual assaulted.

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