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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, April 24, 2015

As we approach the end of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have two announcements related to the annual event and speculation that a new study might shine more light on the prevalence of sexual violence on American campuses.

White House Blog Post on SAAM

The current White House has been particularly active on the issue of campus sexual assault, launching the “It’s On Us” campaign as part of an overall initiative to reduce sexual violence at institutions of higher education. For sexual assault awareness month, the White House has publicized the accomplishments of the “It’s On Us” campaign, including a recent appearance by Vice President Biden. Those include 600 It’s On Us events, 300 campus It’s On Us student campaigns, 200,000 It’s On Us pledges taken, and partnerships with the likes of Funny or Die and Pandora.

DOJ and DOE SAAM Statement

The Department of Justice and Department of Education took a different route, recognizing SAAM by publishing a blog post that explained the multi-pronged approach for addressing campus sexual assault. Specifically, the post weighed in on an often-asked and somewhat fraught question: Why are schools investigating crimes, which should fall under the jurisdiction of the local police force? The post points out that college administrators are required by civil rights laws to provide a safe and supportive learning environment to victim/survivors of sexual assault. Law enforcement, on the other hand, handles criminal justice matters.

Could the AAU Climate Survey Shed More Light on the Prevalence of Assault in College?

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. The commonly cited statistic that 1 in 5 female college students will be assaulted before graduating is often attacked by critics who maintain that the real number is much lower. Others suggest that the actual number may be even higher. Of course, such a controversy is possible mostly because of the lack of empirical data surrounding sexual assault. Now, some people are hoping a new survey from the American Association of Universities could change that. The above piece from Business Insider speculates that the new survey, which will be made available to 800,000 students at 27 institutions, will provide the raw data necessary to better understand the prevalence of sexual assault, and hopefully improve efforts to fight it. The AAU climate survey also has its critics, including a group of researchers who claim that the survey “is proprietary and therefore not available for scientific examination” and that AAU plans to release aggregated data instead of individual campus data needed for comparison.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, February 20, 2015

The federal government offers funding for research on campus responses to sexual assaults and an open letter against proposed state laws that would legislate higher education responses to sexual violence.

$1.5 Million for Research on Sexual Assault Responses

We’ve featured numerous articles in this space on the need for more information about campus sexual assault and what does and doesn’t work when trying to prevent it. Apparently the United States Department of Justice agrees, because the National Institute of Justice has issued a call for proposals for studies that will investigate different methods of responding to sexual assault on college campuses. They are offering $1.5 million in funding for research into how schools handle campus sexual assault cases. With numerous schools trying a wide variety of methods to address the issue, such additional data is sorely needed.

Educators Call on Legislators to Vote “No” on Sexual Assault Bills

This week numerous student affairs associations and victim’s advocates groups sent an open letter to all “Elected Leaders of the 50 United States,” urging them to vote down proposed state legislation that would require school officials to refer all reports of sexual violence to law enforcement, as well as bills providing enhanced legal rights to the accused, but not to victim/survivors, such as legal representation at conduct hearings, judicial review of decisions made in institutional proceedings, and recovery of money damages if the court rules in favor of the accused student.  This approach, it is argued, “ignores the balance set by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the scope of accused students’ due process rights.” The letter also points out that mandatory reporting laws for sexual assault complaints conflict with federal laws that require schools to give victims the option not to report their sexual assault to local police. They also argue that such requirements could have a chilling effect on reports of sexual assault to school officials by victim/survivors who don’t want the police involved. The letter is signed by higher education professional organizations, state coalitions working to combat sexual violence, and national women’s and victims’ rights organizations, including NASPA, Know Your IX, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

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Weekly Roundup
Posted by On Friday, December 12, 2014

For this week’s roundup we bring you the latest news from the Senate and the Department of Justice’s report on sexual assault.

Senate Hearings on Campus Sexual Assault

On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime met to discuss campus sexual assault. Senators expressed concern with the way campus sexual assaults are handled by universities and colleges, with several lawmakers questioning the role of the police, or lack thereof, in investigating assaults. Additionally, both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill expressed concerns about how the fall-out from Rolling Stone’s now-controversial article on an alleged gang rape at UVA  might affect efforts to fight campus sexual assault at UVA and other schools. Senator Gillibrand said, “And I hope it will not discourage other students from coming forward because it is the students themselves all across the country who are demanding reform and their voices are vital in this debate. And I refuse to let this story become an excuse for Congress to do nothing and accept a broken system.”

Senate Will Move Forward with Campus Sexual Assault Bill in the New Year

One thing the Republican take-over of the Senate will not affect in the new year is Senate plans for bills to combat college sexual assault. Indeed, Republican co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act Chuck Grassley is set to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senate Republicans take control of the Senate next year. Said Grassley, “Obviously, this is something we are going to deal with or I wouldn’t be putting my name on a bill. I would think it’s a major issue.”  As we’ve previously reported, the CASA legislation would increase support and resources for victims and survivors, including the creation of a new confidential advisor position at all colleges and universities.

The DOJ Report on Sexual Assault

The Department of Justice has released a report on sexual assault and rape among college-aged females. Their findings are sobering, as might be expected. According to the report, “Fewer than one in five female student and non-student victims of rape and sexual assault received assistance from a victim services agency,” a finding that reinforces the need for a victim-centered approach . The DOJ also found that college-aged women were more likely to experience rape and sexual assault than any other age group, that women not in school were more likely to be assaulted than their peers in college, and that young women in school were less likely to report their assault to law enforcement.

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