If You're Raped at USC, They Call It "Personal Injury" or "Domestic Dispute"

Education

If you're raped or sexually assaulted at the University of Southern California, you're likely to find that the university decides to label what happened to you by another name, a complaint from a group of students alleges. And, unsurprisingly, the new name USC gives your assault will just happen to look a lot less serious in its federally required annual security report—"personal injury" or "domestic dispute," maybe.


Colleges are required under the Clery Act to report campus crimes accurately and in a timely fashion. But USC students tell stories of a lot of ways that doesn't happen. Ariella Mostov had to follow up on her own report when campus public safety did not do so, then was told by campus police that she wasn't raped because her attacker didn't have an orgasm, and:

Mostov said the campus police report of her attack also was inaccurate, and she was "furious" about the discrepancies. She said she told an officer she had asked the assailant several times during the attack to stop. The police report said Mostov told the suspect once to stop and he did.

Campus police also discouraged Mostov from going to the Los Angeles police. She's not alone, according to the complaint, and USC officials reportedly work hard to undermine students as they come forward with sexual assault allegations:

When [USC senior Tucker] Reed reported her own sexual assault to USC in November 2012, it was logged as "sexual battery" by the campus Department of Public Safety officer, according to the complaint. Reed didn't know this until July 2013, she said, when she got a copy of the report.

Reed said she was told by Raquel Torres-Retana, student judicial affairs and community standards director, that the university had difficulty taking Reed's side because "we know that all the students at this university are good students. They're good people. That's why they're here."

Apparently the USC admissions staff is omniscient and can know who's a good person and who's not just based on their college applications.

USC is far from alone in wanting to bury sexual assault and rape complaints. Schools don't want prospective students, parents, and donors to see such complaints, and all too often, they don't want to deal with the crimes or really punish the perpetrators. Yale, for instance, routinely punishes "nonconsensual sex" with written reprimands. Colleges' self-interest in underreporting crimes and a poisonous tendency for administrators to want to protect male students from life-changing criminal charges, even at the cost of allowing rape to go unpunished and rapists continuing access to their victims, combine to create campuses on which rape is basically tolerated by administrators. It shouldn't be up to students to ensure that the laws against that are enforced, but USC students are showing they'll do it if that's what it takes.

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