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Report: 41% of Colleges Haven’t Conducted a Single Sexual Assault Investigation in Past Five Years

Sen. Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill in Washington.Pablo Martinez/AP

The new results of a Senate survey carried out at the request of former prosecutor Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill reveals that 41 percent of US colleges haven’t investigated a single rape or sexual assault in the past five years. McCaskill says that schools are not investigating as many sexual assaults as they are reporting to the government. “I don’t need to explain why that is a big problem,” she said.

Among these schools are 81 percent of private for-profit colleges surveyed and 77 percent of educational institutions with fewer than 1,000 students surveyed.

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“Interestingly, approximately 6% of the nation’s largest public institutions also have not conducted any investigations in the last five years,” according to the report.

Amidst a federal investigation of dozens of US schools accused of mishandling sexual assault cases, the findings attribute the troubling figures to athletic departments being assigned to oversee assault cases involving student athletes, and a lack of properly trained law enforcement on college campuses. The report states:

Approximately 20 percent of the nation’s largest public institutions and 15 percent of the largest private institutions allow their athletic departments to oversee cases involving student athletes. Institutions are also failing to provide adequate training for the individuals who adjudicate sexual assault claims. This is particularly problematic because of pervasive and culturally ingrained misunderstandings of what constitutes sexual assault, such as the prevalence of acquaintance rape versus stranger rape, what constitutes consent, the type of conduct that constitutes rape, and how trauma can impact the survivor’s demeanor and memory. Yet 33 percent of institutions in the national sample failed to provide training regarding these issues.

The study also identified failure to obtain information about the scope of campus sexual assaults and lack of support to victims as major problems. Only 16 percent of colleges conducted anonymous surveys about sexual assault and only about half of the colleges provide a hotline for victims.

The survey sample consisted of 350 four-year schools of all types and different sizes across the nation. The response rate was 98 percent from large public school and 85 percent for large private schools.

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