Thursday, July 10, 2014

Disturbing Survey Shows Colleges are Terrible at Handling Campus Sexual Assaults

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Sorry, students, but your school probably doesn't even have a trained sexual assault nurse examiner. -  JIRKA MATOUSEK VIA FLICKR

Three months after an independent report criticized how the University of Missouri's handled a scholarship athlete's claim that she'd been raped by football players, a new survey from Senator Claire McCaskill reveals glaring shortcomings in how America's colleges and universities nationwide handle on-campus sexual violence.

McCaskill -- who calls the study results a "wake up call" for the 440 surveyed schools and beyond -- is leading the charge against campus assaults with the same fervor she brought to the fight against assaults in the military. Her bill to overhaul how the armed forces manage sexual assault allegations passed the senate in a rare unanimous vote in March.

See also: Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt Co-Sponsor Military Sexual Assault Legislation

Higher education institutions are required by federal law to investigate sexual assault claims from students. McCaskill's survey found 41 percent of schools hadn't conducted a single investigation in five years. Of the schools that did investigate, several reported that they had seven times more reported assaults than open investigations.

click to enlarge Senator Claire McCaskill.
  • Senator Claire McCaskill.

"Unfortunately, the disturbing bottom line of this unprecedented, nationwide survey, is that many (colleges and universities) continually violate the law and fail to follow best practices in how they handle sexual violence," McCaskill says. "These failures affect nearly every stage of institutions' response to such crimes, and these results should serve as a call to action to our colleges and universities to tackle this terrible crime."

Here are some highlights from the survey, which you can also read online: "Sexual Violence On Campus: How Too Many Institutions of Higher Education are Failing to Protect Students."

-Twenty-one percent of colleges and universities provide no sexual response training for faculty and staff. Thirty-one percent don't provide training for students.

-Only sixteen percent of schools conduct confidential climate surveys to get an accurate picture of assaults on campus.

-Law enforcement officers at 30 percent of the schools receive no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence.

-More than 70 percent of schools don't have protocols on how schools and law enforcement should work together after students report sexual violence.

-Only half of the schools provide a hotline for student survivors of sexual assault. Only 44 percent of schools allow students to report sexual assaults online. Eight percent of schools do not allow confidential reporting.

-Most schools do not provide access to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a specially trained nurse who can provide medical and other services to survivors of sexual assault.

-More than twenty percent of schools give the athletic department oversight of sexual violence cases involving student athletes.

The survey hits close to home, and not just because Missouri's senator's name is on it. Sasha Menu Courey, a swimmer at MU, committed suicide in 2011 after claiming that members of the football team raped her.

See also: Sasha Menu Courey: MU Turns Student Athlete Rape Case Over to Columbia Police

click to enlarge Sasha Menu Courey. - UM ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
  • UM Athletic Department
  • Sasha Menu Courey.

After her story went public in an ESPN Outside the Lines investigation in January, an independent report found that MU should have investigated her assault in 2012, as Title IX requires, when university officials found two emails about it during a public-records request.

Mizzou's lawyers should have alerted the school's Title IX coordinator about the assault claims, but at the time, the assistant general counsel didn't even know the school had a Title IX coordinator, the Dowd Bennett Law Firm in Clayton found.

University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe instituted sweeping changes after the report on Courey's assault.

"Now it's time to get to work and make the university a model for victim support and accountability for thorough investigations," McCaskill said after the report came out.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at

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