Reporting rape requires access: New York universities implement new sexual assault policies

SUNY launches a 24-hour sexual assault reporting hotline this week, but Cuomo wants to expand to private schools

Published March 2, 2015 3:48PM (EST)

              (AP/Markus Schreiber)
(AP/Markus Schreiber)

New York state started the year with a push to step up sexual assault prevention programs on college campuses, and some plans are already taking effect. This week, SUNY will activate a new, 24-hour sexual assault reporting hotline for all 64 of its campuses, offering an estimated 463,000 students across New York new access for alerting state police to rape reports.

The hotline, which was adopted as part of SUNY's new sexual assault policies in December, is just one part of a complete overhaul of past standards. In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged state universities to adopt an "affirmative consent" standard for sexual assault investigations similar to that recently enforced in California. The standard requires that sexual consent be "clear, knowing and voluntary" and stipulates that "silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent."

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that New York colleges and universities reported 388 forcible sex offenses in 2013, out of over 5,000 across the country. Recent estimates, however, indicate that the number of offenses is likely to be much higher. Reports have also shown that between 90 to 95 percent of rapes on college campuses are committed by fewer than 5 percent of male students, but an estimated 95 percent of those crimes go unreported to police. Access to new reporting tools such as the SUNY hotline could change those numbers.

The policies taking effect this week will only be implemented at SUNY schools, but Cuomo is pushing all New York colleges and universities, including private ones (such as Columbia University in New York City, which is currently under Title IX investigation for its handling of sexual assault) to adopt the policies as well.

By Jenny Kutner

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