Approximately 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. But fewer than 5% of rape victims attending college report their attack to law enforcement, according to the most recent report conducted by the Department of Justice.
It was numbers such as those that got Sen. Claire McCaskill’s attention.
At the request of Chairwomen Claire McCaskill, the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight launched a national survey to assess how institutions work with law enforcement to ensure that reports of rape and sexual assault are investigated and prosecuted. To assess whether any changes in how institutions handle sexual violence have occurred over the past decade, the survey questionnaire based 28 questions on questions asked in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) report from 2002.
The Subcommittee’s national sample comprises 350 schools selected from a population of all four-year postsecondary institutions that participate in Federal Title IV financial aid programs.
“Many of the young people coming forward are being discouraged from doing anything other than going through the university process,” McCaskill said.
More than 20 percent of institutions in the national sample provide no sexual assault response training for members of their faculty and staff. More than 30 percent of schools do not provide any sexual assault training for students.
“Perhaps the most disturbing information that we learned, is that the law requires that every institution that knows or reasonably should have known about sexual violence, that they must conduct an investigation,” McCaskill said. “But 41% of the colleges and universities surveyed have not conducted a single investigation in the past 5 years, which means they are saying there have been zero incidents of sexual assault on their campuses. That is hard to believe.”
More than 20 percent of institutions in the national sample give the athletic department oversight of sexual violence cases involving student athletes.
“22% of the institutions – and this, to me, is borderline outrageous,” McCaskill said. “One in five institutions are allowing their athletic departments to oversee the cases involving athletes.”
“It is hard to imagine a victim that would come forward if they knew that the athletic department is going to be making the decisions on the case when the alleged perpetrator is a scholarship athlete within that athletic department,” McCaskill said.
Law enforcement officials at 30 percent of institutions in the national sample receive no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence. More than 70 percent of institutions in the national sample do not have protocols regarding how they and local law enforcement should work together in respond to sexual violence.
“We want to simplify this,” McCaskill said. “We want to make sure that the three different laws that impact this area, the Clery Act, the SaVE Act and Title IX, complement one another and don’t compete with one another. And we are focusing on the part of the problem: empowering victims, supporting victims, adequate training and coordination with law enforcement.”
“What I think we can do, and what we will strive to do, is to develop a better team approach on college campuses that would involve both campus law enforcement and local law enforcement to look at their protocols and processes,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill hopes the climate surveys will inform the public on the climate of sexual violence on campuses. She believes the availability of the surveys will encourage campuses to take the education more seriously.
“But, ultimately, we’ve got to make sure that the victim has the right to make the decision, and that the victim’s decision is well-informed.”
The population of the 3,104 institutions nationwide was stratified into one of nine selection strata: public institutions with more than 10,000 students, public institutions with between 1,000 and 9,000 students, public institutions with fewer than 1,000 students, private non-profit institutions with more than 10,000 students, private non-profit institutions with between 1,000 and 9,000 students, private non-profit institutions with fewer than 1,000 students, private for-profit institutions with more than 10,000 students, private for-profit institutions with between 1,000 and 9,000 students, and private for-profit institutions with fewer than 1,000 students.
The subcommittee also selected two additional samples including the 50 largest public four-year institutions in the country and all private non-profit four-year institutions with enrollments of 15,000 students or more. In total, 49 of the 50 largest public institutions participated and 34 of the 40 largest private non-profit institutions participated.
Schools were assured that neither their responses nor their participation in the survey would be shared outside of Senator McCaskill’s office, either with members of the public, the media, or other offices or branches of the government.