Inside Publici

Published — July 15, 2014

New scrutiny on campus sexual violence highlights Center findings

Introduction

Increasingly aggressive scrutiny by both Capitol Hill and the Obama administration is drawing new attention to the Center for Public Integrity’s landmark investigation of campus sexual assault.

Published in a six-part series starting in 2009, “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice” — done in collaboration with National Public Radio — showed that campus judicial proceedings regarding allegations of sexual assault were often confusing, shrouded in secrecy and marked by lengthy delays.

Those who reported sexual assaults encountered a litany of institutional barriers that either assured their silence of left them feeling victimized again. Even students found “responsible” for sexual assaults often faced little punishment, while their victims’ lives were frequently turned upside down.

In recent months there has been action on a variety of fronts aimed at both assisting schools and putting pressure on them, which has led to a new round of media attention.

In late April, a federal task force unveiled recommendations for helping colleges and universities respond to the problem, while offering detailed guidance and unveiling a new website to make public federal enforcement data on campus sexual assault.

In early May, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released a list of the 55 higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

In Congress, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has led a group of senators researching ways the issue might be addressed legislatively. In early July, her office released a survey which found that many schools hadn’t investigated an alleged sexual assault in years, and that coordination between campuses and area law enforcement agencies was weak.

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