Survey Grades Colleges Poorly in Handling Sexual Assault Violence

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2011 file photo, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

    Many colleges and universities across the country aren't following the law as they handle sexual violence on campus, a new Senate report said Wednesday.

    And many others aren't following best practices, including not investigating claims of sexual violence well, not training staff and faculty and not helping survivors after an assault.

    Senator Claire McCaskill announced the results of a survey of 440 four-year institutions of higher education, including a national sample of the largest public and private institutions.

    In May, the U.S. Department of Education named 67 schools being investigated for the handling of sexual abuse allegations, including the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and Morgan State University.

    One in five undergraduate women has been the victim of attempted or completed sexual violence during college, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. McCaskill’s report discovered most colleges and universities lack accurate information about the real number of sexual assaults that occur on their campuses.

    "On first blush, a parent would think that's good, they don't have a problem with sexual assault on their campus, but it's not good, it's very bad because that means they are either in denial or incompetent,'' McCaskill said.

    The report also discovered many institutions don’t have tools or procedures to assist victims in reporting potential crimes. They recommend implementation of a 24-hour hotline for reporting and the ability to allow confidential reporting.

    The survey also reported:

    • 20 percent of schools have no sexual assault response training for their faculty and staff;
    • 31 percent of schools do not provide training for students about what constitute sexual assault and what to do about it;
    • Despite the prevalence of campus sexual assaults, 41 percent of school said they have not conducted a single investigation in the past five years;
    • Law enforcement at 30 percent of the schools do not receive training on how to respond to sexual violence reports;
    • And only many schools do not include representatives of services that could help survivors.

    The entire subcommittee report was released on Wednesday.

    Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, said if victims want to maintain confidentiality, it is "extremely difficult to conduct an investigation.'' She said many college officials want to work more with local authorities, but local authorities are hesitant to take such cases because they are difficult to successfully prosecute.

    McCaskill , a democrat from Missouri, is teaming up with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D – Conn.) to better understand how schools handle campus sexual assaults as they prepare legislative solutions.