Sexual assault, a longtime problem on college and university campuses, has recently become a national issue. Advocates say schools, fearing negative publicity, are not proactive in investigating or prosecuting those responsible for these violent crimes, the vast number of which are not reported to authorities. A recent survey of 440 colleges showed that many schools ignore provisions of Title IX, which requires them to prevent and investigate sexual assaults, and the 1990 Clery Act, which orders colleges to report violent incidents to authorities. Estimates have put the occurrence of campus rape at about one of every five women during their college career. This estimate corroborates a recent finding that 19% of all American women have been raped during their lifetimes. Some advocates say campus rape is so prevalent that schools which do not report this problem are likely avoiding efforts to address it.
A 2012 study found that 55% of 1,570 colleges and universities with 1,000 or more students received at least one report of a forcible sex offense on campus, including forcible rape, forcible sodomy, forcible fondling and sexual assault with an object. In 2012, there were at least 3,900 reports of forcible sex offenses on campuses nationwide. Of the undergraduate women who are sexually assaulted in college, 34% are physically forced, 57% are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 4% are given drugs without their knowledge. Only about 12% of all campus rapes are reported to authorities and only 1% of all assailants are ever disciplined by the school. Even so, about 78% of college presidents polled in one survey disagreed that sexual assault was prevalent on their campus, and 75% of presidents believed their institutions were doing a good job protecting women from sexual assault.
Advocates say the first point of contact is crucial for women who have been sexually assaulted. Some schools require victim advisors to publically report rape cases brought to their attention, which may discourage students from seeking help. Others assign a confidential adviser, who explains the reporting process while ensuring services are made available for her. This approach has helped increase the number of victims who decide to report their abuse to the police. Advocates say colleges need to provide safe and supportive environments where students feel comfortable reporting these crimes.
S.706 – SOS Campus Act
H.R.1310 – Campus Accountability and Safety Act