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Sexual Assault

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri says the Clery Act, signed into law in 1990, has outlived its usefulness.

Speaking in June to a national conference hosted by Campus Safety magazine, McCaskill said the current law “doesn’t accomplish squat.” If McCaskill gets her wish, Clery would be replaced with a law that requires more effective reporting. “To be honest with you, I am OK removing the Clery Act completely,” she said.

Karen Bitar is a partner in the litigation department of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Allegations of sex abuse, once hidden from public view at universities, are seeing the light of day at record levels. That attention leads to inevitable questions: How can a school conduct the required investigation when a complaint is made, and deal with victim concerns that schools turn a blind eye to their needs?

Tabletop emergency exercises are part of the drill for Greencastle, Ind., Police Chief Tom Sutherlin and DePauw University Director of Public Safety Angela Nally. They met in August for an exercise at the Emergency Operations Center in Greencastle.

Cooperation between college and local police is expanding--police at many institutions now run through emergency drills with their local counterparts and some schools have seen their officers’ jurisdiction expanded into surrounding communities. Sexual assaults, however, remain a major concern.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigation of 55 colleges is leading to some changes in the way campuses handle sexual abuse reports.

The controversy over campus officials’ handling of sexual assault complaints may have reached a tipping point in May when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released a list of 55 colleges under investigation for possible violations of Title IX.

Then, 32 more schools were revealed as under investigation, though not for incidents directly related to sexual violence.

Meg Mott is a professor of political theory at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vt.

Recently, the White House Council on Women and Girls issued a report pledging to “make our campuses safer” from sexual assault.

According to their research, “1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while she’s in college,” a troubling statistic which the authors explain by “the dynamics of college life.” Female undergraduates, we are told, are abused while intoxicated by men whom they know in passing.

Leslie M. Gomez is a partner in the White Collar Litigation and Investigations Practice Group of Pepper Hamilton LLP.

A senior administrator recently described the issues related to sexual misconduct as a dormant volcano that lies beneath main administration buildings on campuses across the country. This is a sentiment echoed by many administrators committed to successfully responding to issues of sexual violence and harassment, but sometimes uncertain how to get there. With prevalence rates high and reporting rates low, colleges face challenges in designing and implementing effective responses. But an integrated institutional plan can help.