Just before this post we posted another story about a NY political candidate who (as a ploy to get elected) has suggested a bill to prevent people who are required to register as a sex offender from attending college classes in person. (see: https://floridaactioncommittee.org/ny-candidate-seeks-to-end-in-person-college-for-people-required-to-register-as-sex-offenders/)

Sometimes we share a story about a proposed bill on something and it just seems to beg for follow-up research. Clearly protecting students on college campuses is a noble objective, but will this bill do anything to accomplish that objective? Specifically, we know sexual assault takes place on college campuses, but will barring people on the registry solve (or significantly remediate) this problem, or is this some misguided politician pointing the finger at a patsy and saying, “there, I did something to fix this”.
So sexual assaults on college campuses are a big problem. HUGE! According to RAINN, (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence)
  • 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
  • Among graduate and professional students, 9.7% of females and 2.5% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
  • Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

Those are scary statistics, but the actual numbers are even scarier. 9.2 million female undergraduate students were enrolled US colleges or universities in 2020. If 26.4% of them were sexually assaulted; that equates to 2,428,800!!! That’s a horrific number and something absolutely needs to be done about this, but will Candidate Catalfamo’s bill solve or significantly remediate this problem? Of the 2.4MM female victims of campus sexual assault, how many were committed by someone on the registry? Was it over a million or was it 5? That makes a really huge difference in determining whether this “solution” would cut this problem in half or only offer a 0.00000001% solution to the problem at best.

A 2019 study (Quade, Amanda Ellen, “Certainty Versus Suspicion: Incapacitated Sexual Assault on Campus” (2019). Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies. 6737) broke down the distinction between forcible sexual assault (use of threat, force or a weapon to gain control over a victim) and incapacitated sexual assault (sexual assault which takes place when a victim is drugged, drunk, or unable to provide consent or stop what is happening to them). The cases of incapacitated sexual assault were extremely high (49%), but what is similarly scary is that 7.8% of college students studied reported knowing or being suspicious of someone putting drugs into their drink
in order to perpetuate the sexual assault. (Swan, S. C., Lasky, N. V., Fisher, B. S., Woodbrown, V. D., Bonsu, J. E., Schramm, A.T., Warren, P. R., Coker, A. L., & Williams, C. M. (2016). Just a dare or unaware? Outcomes and motives of drugged (“drink spiking”) among students at three college campuses. Psychology of Violence 7(2), 253-264.)

With excessive alcohol or drug use involved in more than half of all campus sexual assaults, we have identified an exponentially greater contributing factor to this problem than a person with a past sexual offense on campus, which is not even a statistically significant contributing factor. Why is Candidate Catalfamo’s bill not focused on preventing people with a history of a drug or alcohol offense from being on campus?

It might not have the same cachet or be as headline grabbing, but  Candidate Catalfamo can get behind something that will actually help our children instead of this smoke and mirrors. He can focus on reducing underage drinking by increasing supervision at campus events, sponsor a bill to fund support for victims of sexual assault, encouraging them to come forward and eliminate the stigma around reporting (victims who were drinking at the time of a sexual assault report high levels of distress, self-blame, and negative reactions from others). Or, as we always encourage, he can invest in educational programs to bring awareness to the problem, the ramifications (both the the victim and the perpetrator) and prevention plans (such as setting up a buddy system) that are far more effective than a useless bill that will do absolutely nothing other than prevent someone trying to improve their life from getting an education.


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