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Sen. McCaskill Surveying Reporting of Campus Sexual Assaults

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Photo: Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

Photo: Whitney Curtis/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KMOX) - Former sex crimes prosecutor and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today launched a massive survey of colleges and universities to learn exactly how schools handle rapes and sexual assaults on campuses—specifically focusing on how such crimes are reported and investigated and how students are notified about available services.

It is the first Congressional inquiry of its kind.

The survey, being conducted through McCaskill’s Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, will also gauge the effectiveness of federal oversight and enforcement under Title IX federal civil rights law and the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, commonly known as the Clery Act.

“This survey will give us an unprecedented look into exactly how our colleges and universities act—or sometimes, fail to act—to protect students, and bring perpetrators to justice,” said McCaskill. “Just like the challenges we grappled with in confronting sexual assaults in our military, we need to ensure we have a firm grasp on the policies in place, and the reality on the ground, to inform any specific solutions. This survey is an important part of that effort.”

Just last week, an independent report found that the University of Missouri failed to follow parts of the federal law that governs sexual harassment when handling the case of a former swimmer’s suicide.

McCaskill is surveying 350 colleges and universities nationwide that represent different types of institution (public, private non-profit, and private for-profit) and varying in size.

Title IX prohibits colleges and universities that receive federal funds from discrimination on the basis of sex. This discrimination includes sexual harassment and sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault. Schools that do not comply with the requirements of Title IX may lose access to federal funds. Compliance includes responding promptly and effectively to reports of sexual violence, and having procedures to report and resolve complaints of sexual assault.

According to the available statistics, approximately 19 percent of undergraduate women have been the victims of sexual assault. Because many crimes are not reported, however, it is likely, that this number is substantially higher.

A 2000 Justice Department report estimated that less than 5 percent of victims of rape attending college report their attack. An investigative series from the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Public Integrity completed in 2010 found that in many cases, victims wishing to report sexual assault experienced confusion over how to report, confusion over acceptable standards of conduct and definitions of rape and sexual assault, and a fear of punishment for activities preceding some assaults, such as underage drinking.

As the nation marks “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” McCaskill also recently requested from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan specific information and data, including how the federal government oversees reporting by colleges and universities, written guidance provided to colleges and universities and local law enforcement, information on any training provided to colleges and universities, enforcement actions by the federal government, and data on how many sexual assault cases are adjudicated administratively by universities versus how many are prosecuted in the local criminal justice system.

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