TIME

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Reform Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would require an annual survey of students' experiences with assault at college to be published online

Eight Senators on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at curbing on-campus rape that will include an annual survey of students about their experience with sex assault.

“We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are. And it has to end,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a statement about the Campus Safety and Accountability Act. “ We will not allow these crimes to be swept under the rug any longer. Students deserve real safety and accountability instead of empty promises.”

Gillibrand, who has been at the forefront of efforts to combat sexual assault, was a part of a bipartisan group of Senators supporting the bill including Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The proposed legislation came just weeks after a Senate subcommittee survey revealed that 41% of 236 American colleges had conducted no investigations of alleged assaults in the last five years. Under the new rules, colleges would be required to assign on-campus “Confidential Advisors” with the task of being a trusted resource for victims of assault. The goal of the advisors would be to encourage victims to come forward while reducing the likelihood that cases would be swept under the rug due to poorly executed, or non existent investigations.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating 55 colleges and universities that may have violated federal law in their flawed handling of accusations of assault. (An estimated one in five women are sexually assaulted in some way while in college, though the bulk of victims fail to report to authorities.)

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act would require not only a uniform process for disciplinary proceedings; it would also colleges to coordinate with law enforcement throughout investigations. If schools fail to comply they could also face penalties affecting 1% of their total operating budgets and a $150,000 fine per violation.

Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) said in a statement Wednesday that the proposed legislation “will help improve the way that colleges deal with sexual violence, and will give more victims an opportunity for justice.”

The bill also takes a historic approach to campus transparency by administering an annual survey of students to gage their experiences with assault. The results would be published online as a benefit to parents and current and prospective students.

“This bill represents a rare thing in Washington—a truly collaborative, bipartisan effort—and that bodes well for our shared fight to turn the tide against sexual violence on our campuses,” said Sen. McCaskill, who recently released a survey on college’s approach to sexual assault. “To curb these crimes, students need to be protected and empowered, and institutions must provide the highest level of responsiveness in helping hold perpetrators fully accountable. That’s what our legislation aims to accomplish.”

Read more about the campus rape crisis in TIME’s cover story here.

 

This post was updated to include a statement from Sen. Claire McCaskill.

TIME campus sexual assault

UConn Settles Sexual Assault Lawsuit

STORRS, Conn— The University of Connecticut has settled a federal lawsuit filed by five women who claimed the school responded to their sexual assault complaints with indifference.

The bulk of the settlement, $900,000, will go to a former UConn hockey player who joined the Title IX lawsuit last December, a month after it was originally filed by four other women. She alleged she was kicked off the team after reporting she had been raped by a male hockey player in August 2011.

The other four women will receive payments ranging from $125,000 to $25,000.

The Associated Press obtained settlement documents in advance of a planned Friday morning announcement by the university and plaintiffs.

The school, which has repeatedly defended its policies for responding to sexual assault complaints, did not admit any wrongdoing.

“It was clear to all parties that no good would have come from dragging this out for years as it consumed the time, attention and resources — both financial and emotional — of everyone involved,” said Larry McHugh, the chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees. “In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement. I hope this resolution will help the students find closure on this issue.”

Messages seeking comment were left for the women’s attorney, Gloria Allred, who planned hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Friday.

The lawsuit alleged discrimination based on gender and retaliation in violation of Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunities to students at schools that receive federal funds. It sought unspecified monetary damages and changes in university policies.

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights began a Title IX investigation in December based on complaints filed by four of the plaintiffs and three other women. That investigation, which could include the loss of federal funds for the school, continues even though these four women also have withdrawn their complaint to the Education Department.

School officials said they would continue to cooperate with that investigation.

The two sides issued a joint statement, which includes an acknowledgment by the plaintiffs that “certain UConn employees provided compassionate care and assistance to them” while contending the response of the school as a whole, showed deliberate indifference.

One plaintiff, Kylie Angell, said she was told by a police officer that, “Women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep happening until the cows come home.”

Angell receives $115,000 in the settlement. Carolyn Luby will get $25,000; Rosemary Richi receives $60,000 and Erica Daniels receives $125,000. The Associated Press normally does not release the names of victims in sexual assault cases, but those four have made their names public at news conferences. The hockey player has not.

None of the men involved in the complaints ever faced criminal charges. The attacks allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2013, while the women were students at the school.

UConn officials have detailed numerous steps the school has taken to ensure women can report sexual assaults to police or schools and receive proper guidance and counseling. The school also said it has expelled 27 students since 2005 who have been the subject of sexual misconduct allegations, including 15 in the past five years. The school could not say how many complaints had been filed during that time.

“This lawsuit may have been settled, but the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been,” said school President Susan Herbst. “Our hearts go out to all victims of sexual violence. The University has taken many positive, important steps in the battle against sexual assault in recent years, which are described in the joint statement, but there is still more to be done.”

Reported by By Pat Eaton-robb

TIME Education

Colleges Are Breaking the Law on Sex Crimes, Report Says

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

New survey amid push for congressional action

Many American colleges and universities are bucking federal law in their handling of campus sexual assaults, according to a survey released Wednesday by a top lawmaker on the issue.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said the results reveal a broad failure by many schools but also offer possible solutions as she and a bipartisan group of lawmakers draft legislation to address the problem. They’re likely to produce a bill around the time students head back to campus this fall.

The survey results come as pressure grows on higher-education institutions to improve their handling of sexual assault from the White House, Department of Education and student advocates. Schools are legally required to address sex crimes and sex harassment under Title IX, a law that prohibits schools that receive public funding from discriminating on the basis of sex. In May, the Department of Education began publicly listing the schools under investigation for violations of Title IX, and the number recently reached 64. The scrutiny has colleges scrambling to improve their policies and procedures.

Colleges and universities are not following even the most basic rules already required of them, according to the survey. Results from the 236 schools that responded to the survey revealed that even though colleges are legally required to have a Title IX coordinator (a staff member responsible for managing the school’s compliance with the laws on sexual harassment and sex crimes), 10% of schools did not. And 41% of schools surveyed had not conducted a single sexual-assault investigation in the past five years.

“That means that they are saying there have been zero incidents of sexual assault on their campuses,” McCaskill said in a call with reporters. “That is hard to believe.”

Schools are required by law to investigate when they know or reasonably should have known about a sex crime on their campus. But more than 21% of “the nation’s largest private institutions” surveyed conducted fewer investigations than they reported to the Department of Education, with some schools reporting as many as seven times the number of incidents of sexual violence than they investigated, which “on its face is violating the black-letter law in this country,” McCaskill said.

Other results revealed a lack of professionalism inherent in the process of handling sex crimes at many of the institutions. Even though most schools, 73%, had no protocol for how to work with the local police, many schools nonetheless had not adequately trained personnel on how to deal with these serious crimes internally. Twenty-one percent of the schools provided no training on sexual-assault response for members of faculty and staff, and 31% provided no training to students. A third of schools failed to provide basic training to the people adjudicating claims, 43% of the nation’s “largest public schools” let students help adjudicate cases, and 22% of institutions gave athletic departments oversight of cases involving athletes — a stat McCaskill called “borderline outrageous.”

The lack of police involvement combined with the institutions’ broad-based failure to handle these crimes adequately, means there is little deterrent for perpetrators on campus.

“We will ultimately have a system that is more of a deterrent than we have now,” McCaskill said. “The folks preying on college students — they have little to no fear of serious consequences.”

TIME Education

Watch The Daily Show Get Hilariously Real About Campus Sexual Assault

"But not all men are bad..."

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook

 

Jon Stewart was surprised to find out that three students at James Madison University who allegedly sexually assaulted a classmate—and filmed themselves doing so—were punished by being expelled after graduation. Yep, that’s right: after graduation. James Madison is just one of 55 schools being investigated by the federal government for mishandling cases of sexual assault on campus.

So Daily Show correspondents Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper (dressed in typical college garb) took it upon themselves to give students some safety tips. The way they take on gender-related injustice is hilarious: they even get a “not all men” reference in there.

TIME

Here’s the Real Reason College Sex Assault Reports are Rising

It may actually be a sign of progress

+ READ ARTICLE

It would seem an odd cause for optimism: the number of sex crimes reported by colleges rose 52 percent between 2001 and 2011, according to a government report released on Tuesday, even as overall crime on campuses dropped.

Yet to many counselors and administrators, the increase is a sign that schools are getting better at handling sexual assault, a problem Time highlighted in a recent cover story. It sounds counterintuitive, but here’s why:

For a number of reasons — institutional resistance, lack of understanding, victims’ own fears — colleges have historically under-reported sex crimes on campus. The substantial jump in reports — from 2,200 to 3,300 over a decade — doesn’t necessarily mean that more sexual assaults occurred as much as it shows that colleges are getting better at acknowledging the ones that have always taken place. This is likely the result of a number of factors: schools becoming better educated about defining sexual assault and more transparent about disclosing when it happens, and victims feeling increasingly empowered to come forward because of these changes.

The Obama administration has made preventing campus sexual assault a priority, appointing a White House advisor on violence against woman, ramping up investigations into colleges’ alleged mishandling of sexual assaults, and threatening to withdraw federal funding from schools that fail to adequately address sexual violence. According to the new data, the increase in reported incidents was particularly high in 2010 and 2011, rising by 15% both years, which could be an indication that the administration’s efforts are having an effect.

There’s another development reflected in the data that shows how our understanding of what constitutes rape is evolving. While more “forcible” sexual offenses were reported between 2001 to 2011, there was a whopping 90% decline in “non forcible” sexual offenses, from 461 in 2001 to 45 in 2011. It’s not a stretch to infer that some of the rise in “forcible” offenses is because colleges stopped classifying so many assaults as “non forcible.”

Misconceptions about rape and sexual assault lead some college administrators to mistakenly believe that sexual assaults between intimate partners or involving a victim incapacitated by alcohol don’t count as “forcible” sexual assault. The change in reporting patterns likely reflects a reeducation of college administrators on the appropriate definitions of force, says W. Scott Lewis, a lawyer at the NCHERM group, a firm focused on safety and risk management in higher education. “They are now starting to realize that force also includes rendering someone incapacitated, coercion, and intimidation,” Lewis says. “If I take you out and watch you take shot after shot while I drink one glass of wine, there’s an element of force–using the alcohol instead of a knife.”

TIME

How Often Does Your College Report Sexual Assaults?

High numbers of reported assaults are often a sign a college is doing a better job addressing the issue. See the interactive below to compare schools' reporting

The prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is often masked by low levels of reporting, as Eliza Gray reported in a recent TIME cover story. Despite the troubles with reporting, comparing the number of incidents that are recorded on campuses can be instructive. In the interactive below, you can search for your school to see how many sexual assaults it reported between 2006 and 2012.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, a higher number of reports from an institution is often a good sign, because it means the school is doing a better job than others at addressing the issue. According to research from the Department of Health and Human Services [pdf], nearly one in five women is the victim of sexual assault or an attempted assault while attending college. Reporting levels for all schools are well below that number.

All schools that receive federal funding must submit annual security reports to the Department of Education, and the White House recently pressured universities to address the problem more proactively.

In 2012, the most recent full year on record, 4-year non-for-profit and public institutions averaged 1.8 reported assaults. The 55 schools currently facing Title IX sexual assault investigations averaged 12 reported assaults in 2012. The ten schools with the highest number of reported assaults average 27.9 in 2012. As the chart shows, the number of reported assaults is on the rise at many institutions.

Here are the top-ten schools with the highest cumulative reports of sexual assault from 2006 to 2012. Again, high reports don’t necessarily mean the highest levels of the crime.

  • Ohio State University-Main Campus, 248
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 208
  • University of California-Davis, 206
  • University of California-Los Angeles, 168
  • Harvard University, 152
  • Indiana University-Bloomington, 149
  • University of California-Berkeley, 143
  • Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus, 136
  • Dartmouth College, 125
  • Princeton University, 122

Numbers show on-campus and off-campus forcible and non-forcible sexual assaults.

Methodology

Forcible and non forcible sexual assaults are available from 2006 to 2012 from the Department of Education’s annual security reports. This includes on-campus security reports, such as dormitories and school buildings, and non-campus security reports like Greek housing. Schools are filtered by four-year private not-for-profit schools and public schools.

TIME feminism

Lena Dunham and Her Sister Add to #YesAllWomen Discussion

Dunham's sister made a symbolic gesture to pressure her school to protect victims of sexual assault

Girls creator and star Lena Dunham contributed to the #YesAllWomen Twitter discussion on Sunday by sharing a story of a time she was harassed by a “very disturbed boy” at school.

Women began sharing their stories of misogyny using the #YesAllWoman hashtag over the weekend after it was revealed that a hatred of women may have inspired the University of California Santa Barbara murders last Friday. Elliot Rodger, who is suspected of killing six people before committing suicide, left behind YouTube videos and a manifesto describing his hate for women who reportedly rejected him. Since then, men and women have shared millions of tweets protesting sexism and gender violence.

That same day that Dunham tweeted her story for #YesAllWomen, she posted a picture of Instagram of her sister’s college graduation cap adored with the number 9. The caption on Dunham’s post read: “My sister Grace graduated from college today. I am so proud of her. She wore the number 9 on her hat to ask that Brown University honor the Title IX amendment of the constitution and do better protecting victims of sexual assault.”

 

 

TIME campus sexual assault

What I’m Telling My Son About Drunk Sex and Consent

Talking with a good friend the other day about all the recent attention regarding sexual assault on college campuses—much of it bravely brought to light by coeds who have come forward to tell their stories—we quickly got around to an angle that cuts close to home: What would we tell our teenage sons, who themselves will go off to school in the next few years?

At one point, my friend held up her iPhone and, half in jest, clicked the video button. In order to protect her two boys, she said, she might advise them never to have sex with a girl before getting her consent on the record.

Sexual violence on campus has reached the level of a “crisis” in the words of a recent cover story in Time—one that led the White House last month to issue guidelines raising the pressure on universities to more aggressively combat the problem.

We know that regretted sex and false accusations are undoubtedly the exception, not the rule. Still, as my friend suggested, fabricated claims of rape do happen. And when they do, a young man’s reputation is instantly, and often irreparably, shattered. His freedom may be lost.

Certainly, we need to protect our daughters. But we need to protect our sons, too—especially given the widespread hookup culture and the messy realities of binge drinking and of drunken, casual sex on campus.

Let me be clear: This is not about blaming the victim or diminishing the crime of sexual violence on campus and its rampant mismanagement by universities more concerned with their image than with protecting young women.

But we suddenly live in an era where talking to our sons about condoms and STDs before they begin to have sexual encounters is not enough. We must talk to them frankly about consent—and by this I do not mean just teaching them that “no means no.” As parents, we must explicitly tell them what’s at stake and how to avoid finding themselves in a situation where their actions could possibly be misconstrued as having crossed the line.

With that in mind, there are half a dozen things that I’ll be telling my now-16-year-old son before he heads off to college.

First, I am going to talk to him about consent—something that might well seem murky to an inexperienced, awkward, nonverbal teenager, especially when alcohol is involved. A recent must-read article in Slate—which I will share with my son—makes plain that it’s a crime to have sex with someone who is too drunk to give meaningful consent, even if the young man is not violent and even if the young woman does not physically resist or verbally object.

Lindsey Doe, a clinical sexologist who has created a free YouTube series dubbed “Sexplanations,” lays it out this way: “Consent is not an absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes.” Her fantastic video on the subject, “What is Consent?”, should be watched by every freshman (male or female) before stepping foot on campus.

Second, I will tell my boy that if he’s drunk, he shouldn’t have sex. Period. Doe offers this gem: “If you cannot drive a vehicle you ought not to wield your wiener.”

Third, I will warn him that he should never take advantage of someone who is drunk. Indeed, if he thinks his only shot at having sex with a woman is because she’s smashed, that’s a sure sign he should walk away. This is also a great opportunity to explain to my son that sex is better when it’s with someone you genuinely care about.

Fourth: I know it can be awkward to talk about sex, but I will advise my son to do exactly that. I will tell him, specifically, that before having sex he should talk about it what it means to him (friends with benefits?) and to her (a relationship?) to make sure there is no misunderstanding. And I will tell him that if he’s ever unsure about the signals he’s getting from a coed, he should flat-out ask her if she wants to have sex—all without worrying that doing so is unromantic or unsexy or unappealing in any way.

Fifth, I will tell him to take the newspaper test: If what he is about to do were reported on the front page of the local paper, would it be considered improper behavior—or worse? If so, walk away.

Finally, I will tell my kid that it’s not enough for him to behave appropriately himself. There will be times when he can safely intervene, encouraging a guy to go home and take a cold shower, or escorting a young woman back to her dorm so she can sleep it off. As Charlotte Alter has pointed out on TIME.com, bystander intervention is becoming an important tool in fighting sexual assault on campus. I’ll encourage my son to be one of the good guys.

TIME Sexual Assault

Kirsten Gillibrand: ‘We Will Not Allow These Crimes to Be Swept Under the Rug Any Longer’

Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand Charles Dharapak—AP

Kirsten Gillibrand is a United States Senator from New York.

After a long and hard-fought effort to reform the military justice system, my office was approached by two extraordinary young women. They told me a story similar to what I had heard over and over from our brave men and women in uniform.

They were survivors of sexual assault. And after enduring horrific acts of sexual violence, they were then betrayed by their schools when they tried to report their assaults.

But these students refuse to be denied justice. So they organized across the country to hold their colleges and universities responsible. And they are increasingly speaking out, reliving the worst moments of their lives to total strangers and the media in the hope that other young women won’t suffer the same fate.

That is the definition of courage. I cannot tell you how inspiring these women are to me personally, and I feel a responsibility to act on their behalf because the price of a college education should never include a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted.

We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are. And it has to end.

Part of the problem is a pure lack of understanding of the true nature of campus sexual assault. These are not dates gone bad, or a good guy who had too much to drink. This is a crime largely perpetrated by repeat offenders, who instead of facing a prosecutor and a jail cell, remain on campus after a short-term suspension, if punished at all.

Another issue is that colleges and universities across the country would prefer not to acknowledge they have a problem for obvious public relations reasons. The current lax oversight has the perverse effect of incentivizing colleges to encourage non-reporting, under-reporting and non-compliance with the already weak standards under current federal law.

Our goal should be to increase the abysmally low reporting rates for sexual assaults on campus and make it in the school’s immediate best interest to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators. The best way to accomplish this goal is through transparency and accountability to flip the incentives that currently reward keeping sexual assault in the shadows.

As a first step, I teamed up with Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor and powerful voice for victims, to secure the resources we need to investigate more cases, and enforce the laws we have.

As it stands today, the federal agencies in charge of enforcing campus sex assault laws are left to a fraction of the funding and staff needed to be effective. And without the right oversight, nearly two-thirds of schools are failing to even report crime statistics as they are required to by current law.

But this is only the beginning Senator McCaskill and I will be taking this growing crisis head on with additional bipartisan action to hold colleges and universities accountable with stiff, binding penalties, and bring more transparency through a national survey of campus sexual assaults that student survivors and advocates consistently make as their top priority.

We will not allow these crimes to be swept under the rug any longer. For all of our young people who dream of going to college, and for all of our students on campus today — they deserve better. They deserve safety and accountability. Simply put, they deserve action.

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

TIME Sexual Assault

Dartmouth’s President on Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention

Philip J. Hanlon is the president of Dartmouth College

Prevention efforts are critical if we are to rid our campuses of the extreme behaviors that harm our community and distract us from the passion of our pursuits. Through the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI), we are instructing individual students, faculty and staff to intervene at the first signs of trouble. To date, more than 800 Dartmouth students have been trained in DBI and we expect up to 1,400 more to be trained by the end of the month.

But, we are doing even more to mobilize the community as a whole. We have established earlier this year the Center for Community Action and Prevention to serve as the hub for all our violence prevention programs, including DBI. At the same time, we are collaborating with leaders in Washington DC and across higher education to identify the best prevention strategies, resources, and support to enhance the engagement of our communities in the all-important task of stopping extreme behavior before it happens.

And in July, Dartmouth will host a Summit on Sexual Assault that will bring together higher ed leaders and experts from around the country to strengthen prevention efforts and better promote the safety and well-being of our students.

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

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