Florida universities have a shameful record of failure in obtaining convictions for rapes reported to campus police.
Of the 55 rape accusations at the state's public universities in the past two years, only seven ended in arrests. And of those cases, none led to a rape conviction.
At the University of Central Florida, the prosecution of rape cases has been no more successful. Since 2005, 44 rapes have been reported to UCF police but only 12 arrests have been made, according to Sentinel staff writers Scott Powers and Denise-Marie Ordway.
In one case, two men charged with felony sexual battery pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received sentences of one day and 12 days in jail, respectively. The rape conviction rate in all UCF cases: zero.
The moral implications are dire. If universities can't protect their most vulnerable students from sexual violence, then the sanctity of a formative period of life for young adults is threatened. Parents need to feel secure when sending a child off to college.
One way administrators could reassure students and parents would be with a better effort at deterrence — including effective prevention programs and a record of successful prosecution of accused rapists.
This problem isn't unique to Florida campuses, of course. One in five undergraduate women nationwide will be the victim of a sex crime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And 40 percent of colleges in a national sample "have not conducted a single [sexual violence] investigation in the past five years," a report by a U.S. Senate subcommittee found.
So by that standard, Florida universities are making an effort, though a zero conviction rate in dozens of rape cases cannot be considered success.
Even in the broader society, rape cases can prove difficult to prosecute. Just one in three rape cases that go to trial ends in a conviction on the rape charge, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Yet that still leaves Florida's deterrence record inadequate by comparison.
No one would suggest that administrators, campus police or prosecutors are uncaring about rape. Universities regularly educate students on the dangers of alcohol consumption — often a factor in situations where students are raped. Other programs, such as UCF's requirement that every student take an online course warning of the dangers of sexual assault, are laudable.
It's not enough, however, when rapes still occur with alarming frequency and lead to little or no punishment for the attacker.
School administrators, police and prosecutors — in fact, the entire college community — need to face up to their moral obligation to reduce sex crimes on campus and to effectively punish violators when those crimes occur. Florida universities have fallen far short in that effort.