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Sitting in class, a teacher might assign you a 500-word essay for homework. You might have had to write one for a college application or to qualify for a scholarship. You might have had to write one in detention. But now, writing just 500 words is apparently a sufficient punishment for sexually assaulting someone.

At Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, students and concerned alumni are claiming that a student who was found responsible for sexual assault repealed his suspension and was instead required to write a measly 500-word paper about consent as his punishment.

I would say it would take people, at the most, an hour to write 500 words.

That means that this guy could sit down in the morning, scribble some words on a piece of paper and then still have time to make it to his 9 a.m. lecture.

He would be allowed to go to class, to live his life, all without any real consequences for his actions. Meanwhile, his victim now has to live her life constantly looking over her shoulder, afraid that she’ll run into the person who made her life a living hell.

And if you think that this is just another case of a girl trying to accuse a guy she doesn’t like — which I think is a huge misconception about sexual assault — this victim’s claim doesn’t come without any basis.

According to The Gustavian Weekly, the school’s student newspaper, on Feb. 2 local newspaper the Mankato Free Press reported that a student was being charged with sexual assault. Later that month, “the Gustavus community was sent a sexual assault warning via email detailing that on Dec. 13, 2015, Campus Safety had been informed of an acquaintance rape that occurred in a residence hall.” This is just one example of universities in this country grossly mishandling sexual assault cases on their campuses, despite evidence to back up victims’ stories.

According to a study conducted by The Huffington Post in 2014, less than one-third of students found guilty of sexual assault on campuses are expelled. That means a majority of these perpetrators are given a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue on their way. That’s an alarming phenomenon, considering that a recent survey by the Association of American Universities found that 23 percent — one in four — of all college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.

So when colleges and law enforcement don’t properly handle these cases, they’re damaging thousands of young women who have already suffered through one of the worst parts of their lives.

These types of fake punishments aren’t just hurting victims, they’re hurting everyday conceptions about women’s sexual health and rights. They imply that a man’s word holds more weight than a woman’s, and they’re downright stating that the health of women can be compromised for a couple of paltry, thrown-together sentences.

What about you? Would you say 500 words is a sufficient trade-off for the rights of your sister, daughter, wife or friend?

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Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.

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