(AP) — A survey of colleges and universities finds a lack of coordination between many campuses and local law enforcement in handling sexual assaults, and that many schools have gone years without investigating such cases.
About 40 percent of colleges and universities reported not having conducted a sexual assault investigation in the past five years, including 6 percent of the nation’s largest public institutions. More than 20 percent of large, private schools conducted fewer investigations than the number of incidents reported to the Education Department.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former prosecutor whose office conducted the survey, said parents and taxpayers should be concerned about the number of investigations.
“On first blush, a parent would think that’s good, they don’t have a problem with sexual assault on their campus, but it’s not good, it’s very bad because that means they are either in denial or incompetent,” McCaskill said.
Federal law requires every institution that knows about a sexual violence incident to investigate, she noted. She said schools should investigate even if the end result is that the victim isn’t participating and there’s no corroboration. Under some estimates, 1 in 5 college females is assaulted.
The prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses took on new focus in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State and after a high-profile battle on Capitol Hill about military sexual assault led college campus assault victims to demand the same attention.
Meanwhile, the Education Department and a White House task force on campus sexual assault have taken a series of steps to draw attention to the treatment of sexual assault victims and force campuses to address the problem.
In Congress, McCaskill is part of a group of senators exploring ways to address the issue legislatively. She said the survey was needed so they had a better grasp of how campuses handle such cases.
McCaskill said the senators are looking at ways to empower victims, simplify laws and rules colleges and universities follow and find ways that campuses and local authorities can better coordinate. She chairs a subcommittee with jurisdiction over Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at institutions receiving federal funds.
Ada Meloy, general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, said if victims want to maintain confidentiality, it is “extremely difficult to conduct an investigation.” She said many college officials want to work more with local authorities, but local authorities are hesitant to take such cases because they are difficult to successfully prosecute.
“I have no doubt that Jane will make Missouri proud. She’s spent years enriching the culture and strengthening the business community in Kansas City, and I’m looking forward to seeing her bring that same leadership to the national stage.”
Mo. Sen. Claire McCaskill
Firefighter Sherwood Smith, a candidate for the Jackson County Legislature, has picked up the endorsement of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The move continues a run of endorsements for Smith that also includes Mayor Sly James, state lawmakers, a host of City Council members and the woman he hopes to succeed — outgoing Legislator Theresa Garza Ruiz.
Smith is running against former Royals second baseman Frank White in the August primary.
Said McCaskill in her endorsement:
“Fighting to keep our neighborhoods safe and expanding job opportunities for working families aren’t anything new for Sherwood Smith.
Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are at war once again. But this time, they’re fighting for the same thing.
It’s been less than two months since the Senate passed McCaskill’s bill over Gillibrand’s on improving how the military handles sexual assault. But with concern over campus sexual violence now approaching fever pitch in Washington, McCaskill and Gillibrand are ready to work on the issue — as partners.
“Sen. Gillibrand and I are doing this together,” McCaskill said in an interview, adding that she has spoken with her New York counterpart a half-dozen times about a forthcoming bill addressing campus sexual assault.
The pair shared an umbrella Tuesday as they exited a White House event where new recommendations on addressing and preventing campus sexual violence were unveiled. McCaskill tweeted a picture using the hashtag “together.”
It appears to be a new era of cooperation, at least for now: Both senators applauded the new White House recommendations. On April 4, they co-wrote a letter signed by several Senate colleagues on the issue. Both have been actively researching what policy changes may make the most sense. And the two are lining up behind some common priorities, such as mandating annual student surveys on sexual assault and changing the federal government’s options for enforcing Title IX violations, advocates say.