COLUMN: Sexual assault policy doesn't help victims
OU President David Boren released a statement last week detailing his proposed changes to the sexual-assault policy. The only change the statement proposed was increasing the statute of limitations to pursue charges after first report from 30 days to 180 days.
These changes are in response to a recent column and proposal made by OU sophomore Jordan Ward regarding the inadequacy of the sexual-assault policy. In her proposal, Ward urged the administration to, among other things, extend the statute of limitations to one full calendar year, and provide better information and resources to sexual-assault victims when they go to the campus police department.
Without meeting with Ward, Boren ignored the proposal’s suggestion to extend the statute of limitations by one year, making clear his intentions to only pursue an extension half that long.
The reason given for this decision is that 180 days is the statute of limitations used by the federal government for reporting sexual assault cases.
This justification fails for a variety of reasons, but I want to focus on one in particular: the flow of university life is very different from that of the federal government. Even if 180 days is a sufficient statute in the context of the federal government — something which I am doubtful of anyway — the unique circumstances of the lives of students during their university careers would render such a statute entirely insufficient for OU.
Given OU’s semester schedule, students have significant lengths of time in which most are away from the campus. The university has a more than one-month break during the winter, and a more than three-month break during the summer.
With respect to the sexual-assault policy, these breaks functionally diminish the length of time provided for in the statute of limitations.
For example if someone was assaulted in January or February, but was not emotionally ready to pursue a report by May, the three-month summer break would completely erase the latter half of Boren’s proposed 180 day statute of limitations. It goes without saying three- months is not enough time.
In addition to university breaks, it is very common for students to study abroad for entire semesters. In fact, it is a requirement for international and area studies majors. This means students are away from campus for about four months, and there is a winter or summer break immediately following their time abroad.
If they were assaulted near the time they went abroad, the statute of limitations would not only be functionally diminished, but could even disappear altogether.
The recognition that a student’s life during college involves frequent and lengthy interruptions in their time on campus is one of the reasons why a full calendar year should be provided for victims of sexual assault.
Undoubtedly, this consideration, among others, is what drives other universities to provide statute of limitations of at least this length.
Although 180 days is preferable to the present 30-day statute of limitations, it is absolutely not long enough. That the federal government has deemed such a time frame to be sufficient for the contexts in which they apply it tells us nothing about whether it is sufficient in the completely different context of a university.
Although some might be inclined to be happy with any extension, and not push it further, this is precisely the time — with changes being in the air — to push as hard as we can to actually get the necessary changes implemented, not an inadequate compromise.
After all, it should be just as easy for Boren to get the policy changed to one year as it is for him to get it changed to 180 days, especially given that the latter is demonstrably insufficient.
— Matt Bruenig, philosophy senior