What was Sogang of 2016 like for you? Many Sogangers would remember it as a whirlpool. So many problems arose, and some of them are yet to be properly resolved. Last year, the name of Sogang got severely stained due to sex crime reports. Many posted about these cases on Sogang Bamboo Forest and Ssodam, reflecting Sogangers’ concern. However, it cannot be said that appropriate measures were taken. There were many flaws in dealing with these crimes. If Sogang fails to cope with these cases, the crimes may be repeated in the future. It is strongly demanded that Sogang should be aware of what the problems are and what we should do from now on.
<Procedure for Sexual Assault Cases in Sogang>
There are two ways of reporting sex crimes in Sogang University; through the Counseling Center for Gender Equality (CCGE) or through the department student council. First, when a sexual assault is reported to the CCGE, a Sexual Violence Task Force (SVTF) who directs disciplinary measures. The task force may order the assailants to make a public apology and complete a re-educational program. If the case is considered serious, it is transferred to the Scholarship Committee, where the level of punishment is decided.
The other task force is made up of the student council: the president of the involved department, the sex-equality agent, and the victim (or his or her delegate). This task force investigates the case and takes relevant measures. “The task force is separate from the student council. Also, the student council can participate in the procedure of the cases only of the task force requests.”, said Kim Min-ji(14, Department of Religious studies) who is the former sex-equality agent in school of Humanities and International Cultures. According to the regulations of the Sogang student council; even the task force investigates and takes measures by itself, it must ask for consultation, the task force should cooperate with the CCGE even when the case has only been reported through the student council. Either way, the CCGE is a principle agent in handling sexual assault cases in Sogang.
Many sexual crimes occurred in Sogang over the years, but three instances in 2016 were most prominent. In case A, some executive members of the School of Humanities and International Cultures student council engaged in an offensive conversation that sexually objectified female classmates. Case B involves a student of the same department, who sexually molested a female underclassman. Case C took place in the School of Engineering; the transcript of a Kakaotalk conversation between male students from the department of Computer Engineering was revealed, where they had habitually engaged in sexual harassment of female peers.
So how did things work out in Sogang? Unfortunately, not very well. First, the mere identification of victims and assailants was far belated in some cases. In case A involving the school of Humanities and International Cultures, the victims were not even aware of their own victimhood for several months. Failing to identify those concerned naturally led to failure in the separation of assailants from victims. The “victim-first” principle, which will be further elaborated in the next section, was violated. Therefore, said victims had unknowingly socialized with the assailants for several months, which came as a big shock to the victims. Afterwards, in case B of the same department, which was officially announced in January, there was no manual for dealing with the case, and it refers to the case A, too. Thus, due to the lack of the formal manual, it is very likely that arbitrary measures intervened in the handling of the case- something to be avoided in the constitutional society. In case C in college of engineering, the assailants and the victims were not properly separated even after their identities had been identified. In case D, involving Kakao Talk conversation, the assailants were permitted to participate in department events even after they were identified. As the public opinion worsened regarding this matter, the student council of the Department of Computer Science prohibited them from further participation in department events. In the above cases, secondary damages – a topic strongly warned against in Sogang student council regulations – to the victims due to inadequate management were inevitable. “Although it is almost impossible to separate assailants from victims if they are the same department, the relevant student council should at least have separated them in department festivities,” stated an anonymous student. Additionally, in case A, all the parties responsible (the student council, school authorities, etc.) were too slow in the after-treatment. Who is to be blamed for the damage inflicted on the victims during this ‘missing period’?
In cases A and B, investigation was also the subject of severe criticism from Sogangers’ part. Many students in Ssodam and Sogang Bamboo Forest were outraged when investigations were delayed due to unclear reasons. In case A, as the whole process had been delayed, the victims were subject to secondary damage like wild rumor. In one interview, one of the victims said, “I cannot understand why the wrongdoing of the assailants was not correctly identified well, and I do not know what’s going on.”, which demonstrates the alienation of the victims in the procedure of the case. Some postings even raised suspicions regarding the student council’s wrongdoing, claiming that the student council went easy on the cases because they were acquainted with assailants. Even the investigation process seemed to totter according to student reactions; in case B, investigations had not advanced until students’ concern and attention became evident. These are obvious indicators showing flaws in the way Sogang handles sexual crimes.
<Principles when Dealing with Sexual Assault>
Then what are the proper protocols for dealing with sexual assault crimes? After-treatment and protection are of a critical importance. The victims should be regarded first and foremost. All victims of sexual violence have the right to be protected from any further harm. They are guiltless, so they should not suffer from any disadvantage. Additionally, the after-treatment of the crime should be processed as to give priority to the victims. Although, basic rights of the assailants should also be respected, any infringement upon the victims’ rights must be avoided at all costs. Rules for prevention and treatment of sexual violence and sexual harassment in Sogang University also point out the importance of this “victim-first” principle (Article 4, 5). “In sexual assault cases, victims’ wills should be respected throughout the whole procedure,” said No Sun-i from Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center.
The “victim-first principle” states that the whole procedure taken after breakout of the case should consider victims as the primary entity. There are four points to this principle specific to sexual assault cases. First, relevant parties must separate the assailants from victims. Because university students share the same space, it is of the utmost importance that the separation is properly performed. If not, victims may suffer secondary damage such as denying, looking on the cases or defending the assailants that are stated in the rule of Sognag Student Council. Second, the handling of the case should be done promptly. The more time is wasted, the harder it becomes to identify the parties concerned. Thirdly, disciplinary action should be effecitve enough to carry out its role of preventing future crimes of similar nature, not to mention punishment. Lastly, the school should establish countermeasures; it is a sure that the school on its part should implement new policies for the prevention of similar crimes, such as conferences or new modes of gender education regarding.
<What to do now>
It is no secret that Sogang has made a fiasco of the aftermath concerning sex crimes. Then, regarding the information presented above, what should Sogang do from now on? First, Sogang should establish a system to ensure shortened time from breakout of the case to the report of the case, while conforming to the “victim-first principle”. Recognition and separation of assailants and victims must also be done quickly. Last year, Sogang failed to figure out the cases on its own. This led to failure in following operations such as separation, progress reports, punishment and countermeasures. As the time taken to investigate stretches out, facts such as identities of assailants and victims or details of the crime grow harder to find. Therefore, prompt and proper investigation should be ensured.
Next, punishment of the sexual assault crimes in university should be enforced to be practical. Punishment and countermeasures will act as a repressant against the recurrence of crimes in the future. Recently, sex-related education and gender discourse have been simultaneously increasing in Sogang. These changes in Sogang may act as a proper countermeasure for sex crimes. However, the punishment for sex crimes in Sogang is relatively weak to anticipate the effect of preventing further crimes. In case B, the first-announced punishment came across as a shock to many Sogangers because it included no actual restrictions on the assailants’ behavior. The relevant agents should keep in mind that light punishment does not only encourage future crimes, but also trample on already-broken hearts of victims.
The first few months of 2017 have been marred by many assault cases. Today, Sogang has to concentrate on two affairs; operation of the after-treatment system and prevention of repeating crimes. Sadly, so far Sogang has not shown a good performance in either one. Examination of the current procedure regarding the handling of sexual crimes should be done as soon as possible. Moreover, meeting appropriate punishment to assailants and enforcing related education will lower the crime rate to a great extent. Sogang should and will suggest exemplary solutions regarding this problem that has recently surfaced out in our society.