40 Percent of Colleges Haven’t Investigated a Sex Assault Case in 5 Years

Saturday, July 12, 2014
(photo: Christine Baker, Harrisburg Patriot-News)

Universities and colleges across the country are not taking sexual assaults seriously, resulting in too many incidents going uninvestigated, a new congressional report says.

A probe initiated by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) discovered many disturbing facts in the world of higher education and its approach to handling rapes and other sexual assaults.


One that jumps right off the page: More than 40% of colleges and universities, including many private for-profit schools, haven’t investigated a single sexual assault case on their campuses over the past five years. McCaskill said: “Which means they’re saying that there have been zero incidents of sexual assault on their campuses in the last five years. That is hard to believe.” She added that the lack of action on their part means those institutions are breaking the law by not pursuing those responsible for such attacks.


After reviewing information from more than 300 colleges and universities, McCaskill’s office learned:


  • Colleges are unaware of the scope of the problem. Only 16% take surveys to measure the amount of sexual violence on campus.
  • More than 20% of schools allow their athletic departments to oversee sexual assault investigations involving student athletes.
  • Campus security at 30% of colleges has not received any training for handling reports of sexual assault.
  • Campus law enforcement at 70% of schools doesn’t have protocols in place for working with local police on such incidents.
  • Barely half of schools have set up a hotline for victims to use for reporting an assault. Eight percent offer no way to report an attack anonymously.


 “What it tells us is that many schools are not following best practices or even the basics of current law,” Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations for the American Association of University Women, told Politico. “Schools cannot continue to bury claims and hope students won’t come forward.”


Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education, took issue with the report. She said the findings ignored “how hard colleges and universities are working to address this complex societal issue,” and that the report “ignores the fact that these are incredibly difficult cases to investigate and solve.”


McCaskill plans next to introduce a bipartisan bill, with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), that would tighten campus disciplinary proceedings.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Claire McCaskill Finds Colleges Failing on Sexual Assaults (by Caitlin Emma, Politico)

Sexual Violence on Campus (Senator Claire McCaskill) (pdf)

Education Dept. Proposes Requiring Colleges to Release Statistics on Sexual Assaults and Hate Crimes (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Four California Colleges among 55 Investigated by Feds for Handling of Sexual Abuse Complaints (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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