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Sexual Assault

More than 40 years after it was established, Title IX continues to pose compliance challenges for higher education institutions struggling with sexual assault investigations. Some say the federal government doesn’t provide enough guidance.

The day after her attacker was sentenced to six months in county jail, the woman who was violently sexually assaulted by former Stanford University student Brock Turner provided her victim impact statement to the online site Buzzfeed for publication (http://UBmag.me/bf). That statement, which immediately went viral, should be required reading for every college and university administrator. 

Source: Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault, Spring 2015; 150,072 students at 27 institutions participated

With sexual assault, awareness efforts may well lead to higher incident reporting—and even assumptions that initiatives aren’t working. But there are still ways to measure program effectiveness.

It starts with identifying prevention goals, says Jane Stapleton, executive director of practice for the Prevention Innovations Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

Body check: Initiatives at Connecticut College include an annual Green Dot hockey game, now in its fifth year. Facts and materials about sexual assault and bystander intervention get posted around the rink, and the team wears special jerseys. It has been the team’s most attended game of the season.

With headline after tragic headline, and demands from angry constituents and stakeholders to do more, colleges and universities are facing the harsh reality that just complying with the minimum requirements of the Campus SaVE (Sexual Violence Elimination) Act isn’t enough to prevent sexual assault.

An Association of American Universities study found that 12 percent of students across 27 universities had experienced sexual assault by force or incapacitation since enrollment, and that 17 percent of seniors had experienced this type of sexual assault while at college. Doctoral candidate and researcher Sara Carrigan Wooten says the report comes as no surprise.

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?

A new documentary is sparking calls for reform on campuses across the country for humanizing a topic that is too often conveyed in the media as a set of statistics.

The Hunting Ground features interviews with numerous campus sexual assault survivors who tell of their frustration with getting justice from a system that often protects perpetrators.

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.

Colleges and universities across the country are poised to lose more than credibility if they don’t comply with sexual assault regulations and policies.

At Dartmouth University’s national sexual assault summit in July, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine E. Lhamon spoke bluntly.

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