Do You Feel SAFE on Campus?

Aaron William California


Criminal acts of violence, including rape, murder, and theft, occur frequently at American universities and colleges. The Jeanne Clery Act, passed in 1990, “requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses” to students and prospective students…upon request. Since the passing of the Clery Act, more amendments have been added to ensure crime victims on colleges and universities protection from being punished for speaking out about their experiences. Although laws are enacted, it is often the case that they are ignored or underdeveloped to accomplish the task they were created to do. With the growing diversity of sexual crimes and violence at universities, the Clery Act needed to be revised. This took place, most recently, in March 2013 under the direction of President Barack Obama.

As of 2013, the United States has on record 747,408 registered sex offenders. Clearly the large number of registered sex offenders living in the U.S. warrants that colleges and universities notify students of these criminals living near the campus. The 1990 edition of the Clery Act did not specifically mention that sex offenders be included in the crime reports.

In 2013, President Obama amended the Clery Act to further protect victims of sexual offences. Any university or college receiving federal aid is required to enforce the 2013 amendments to the Clery Act. One of the important 2013 amendments to the Clery Act now requires universities and colleges to have in writing, in all yearly statically reports, its programs to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  

As of 2013, the Clery Act requires universities to inform victims of assaults covered under the Clery Act of the student or employee’s rights and options. Prior to the 2013 amendments people like Landen Gambill, a victim of sexual assault, were informed of disciplinary actions against them for speaking up about their assault. When Gambill began talking about the man who raped her, the university threatened her with “expulsion for speaking out against her alleged rapist.” In writing, the Clery Act now reads that victims be informed of their rights. Some of these rights include victim’s option to notify law enforcement (on-campus and local police), [and] be assisted…in notifying law enforcement by the university if that is the victim’s decision.

Another amendment the Clery Act signed into effect in 2013 requires universities to launch an investigation into all reports of violence covered under the Act. Victims like Gambill are entitled to a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution to the crime committed against them. The investigation is required to be conducted by trained officials responsible for investigating all acts of violence mentioned in the Act.

Victims are now granted the right to have people they choose to give them council, an understanding of the institution’s process for handling the specific crime, and, very importantly, to know the final verdict of the institution regarding the case. These are rights victims like Gambill did not have before. The law now requires that institutions punish the perpetrators and not the victims.

The perpetrators of sexual assault are often people the victims know, people they live with, work with, attend classes with, or ride the same bus to school on. The 2013 amendments to the Clery act now require, if victims so choose, to know of their options for changing academic, living, transportation, and working situations.

The most important thing to present to law enforcement after a sexual assault has occurred is evidence. It is nearly impossible to convict anyone of any crime, sexual or not, without sufficient evidence. Another aspect of the 2013 amendments to the Clery Act now requires universities to inform victims of the importance of preserving evidence.

The definition of what exactly is true consent to have sex is not exactly clear in writing for many people. To help victims know when their right to consent has been violated, the 2013 amendments require education institutions receiving federal financial aid to inform victims of the definition of consent in reference to sexual activity. It is important that males and females understand if at any point they decide to end any form of sexual activity, even if they consented in the beginning, they may do so at any time. If the perpetrator continues after the victim says stop, what happens then constitutes as rape.

Often Good Samaritan laws backfire on the individuals coming to help. People who simply are trying to help are often sued. Knowing that for just trying to help you can become in trouble with the law, many people will choose not to intervene when witnessing a crime in progress. Part of what President Obama signed in to effect under the Clery Act now grants bystanders safe and positive options for…intervention.

A good start to preventing any sort of crime, especially sexual offences, is to take preventative actions. The Clery Act now requires that institutions inform students on how to identify when violence may happen, when violence has happened nearby, and how to seek justice fairly should they fall victim to it.


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