Tue Jun 17, 2014 3:3PM
Graduates supporting Title IX complaint at Brown University with red tape at their commencement.
Graduates supporting Title IX complaint at Brown University with red tape at their commencement.

Students at elite universities across the United States staged silent protests against the handling of sexual assault cases on campus.

Many students showed solidarity with sexual assault victims by decorating their caps and gowns in red tape during this year's commencement season, the Huffington Post reported.

“Five months ago, I was forcibly raped by another Stanford student,” Leah Francis, who is one of the victims of sexual violence on campus, told Stanford Daily on June 6.

Students took to social media to express solidarity with rape victims like Leah Francis who have not seen justice done to their abusers.

Stanford officials found Francis’ rapist responsible for sexual assault, sexual misconduct and violating the Fundamental Standard. However, he only got a five-quarter suspension and 40 hours of community service and had to complete a sexual assault awareness program.

One Stanford university student tweeted “I #StandWithLeah because rapists do not deserve a Stanford degree.”

The use of red tape to convey a message of discontent started at Columbia University back in the late 1990s. Students used red tape as a symbol of the bureaucratic barriers they faced reporting sexual violence.

Other topnotch schools that have seen this protest symbol are Harvard, Brown and most recently Stanford. All of these universities are accused of mishandling sexual assault cases.

Oxford University students also followed this tradition in Britain and used white ribbons to protest gendered violence and created a Tumblr blog to document the experiences of sexual abuse victims on campus.

Over the past several years, a number of American colleges, like Amherst College and Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, have hosted similar blogs about sexual assault at their campuses.

The US Education Amendments of 1972 (or the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002) has a portion called Title IX which states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Activists use Title IX to report sexual violence on campus. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “when students suffer sexual assault and harassment, they are deprived of equal and free access to an education.”