Survey of U.S. colleges and universities finds many problems in how they handle claims of sexual violence

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri releases results from her survey of colleges and universities on sexual assault, July 9, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri releases results from her survey of colleges and universities on sexual assault, July 9, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Renee Schoof / MCT

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Many colleges and universities are failing to comply with the law and follow best practices for how to handle student sexual assaults, according to the results released Wednesday from an in-depth national survey commissioned by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

The problems uncovered in the confidential survey of institutions of higher education included failure to encourage students to report sexual violence, lack of sexual assault training for students and faculty and staff, cases going uninvestigated even though the law requires investigation, and campus law enforcement officials not being trained on how to respond to reports of the crime.

“There are some schools that are working hard to protect their students, but this shows there are way too many schools that are failing,” McCaskill said a news conference.

The survey asked dozens of questions about school practices. Some of the findings:

_ 43 percent of the nation’s largest public universities allow students to help adjudicate rape claims. It’s not a good practice, said McCaskill, a former prosecutor who handled hundreds of sex crimes. In a criminal court, members of a jury can’t know the defendant. That’s not the case in sex crime adjudication on campuses, McCaskill said.

_ 30 percent of campus law enforcement officials in a national sample of 350 schools received no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence.

_ 22 percent of schools in the national sample allow athletic departments to oversee sexual violence cases involving student athletes. “You cannot expect the athletic department, which is in charge of giving scholarships or depends on the athletic prowess of young men or women, that they will be fair or at least have the appearance of being fair,” McCaskill said.

The national sample was made up of 350 schools that represented large and small, public and private, and for-profit and non-profit institutions. McCaskill’s staff received responses from 236 of these schools. She said the survey was statistically valid and the largest ever taken on campus sexual assault.

The staff also surveyed two other groups: the 50 largest public four-year institutions, and the 40 largest private non-profit four-year schools.

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