A new report from Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-Mo.) and the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight has found that although one in five women experience sexual assault during the course of their college careers, 41% of colleges and universities haven’t conducted a sexual assault investigation in the past five years. Ten percent don’t even have a legally mandated Title IX coordinator to manage compliance with laws on sex crimes and harassment.
“That means that they are saying there have been zero incidents of sexual assault on their campuses,” said McCaskill in a call with reporters. “That is hard to believe.”
According to the survey, which took a subset of 350 of the 3,104 Title IV schools, these are very basic minimum requirements designed to reduce sexual violence and harassment that aren’t even getting a nod from the colleges. Basically, they’re flaunting the law and were getting away with it — the end result being that rapists are also going unpunished. Keep in mind that about 60% of rapes are never even reported, so the real numbers may be even higher.
It doesn’t take a genius to see what’s going on here. The worst offenders are private for-profit schools, of which an astonishing 81% investigated zero sexual assaults in the past five years. And if you really want to get angry, more than 20% of the largest private institutions (each with more than 15,000 students) conducted fewer investigations than the number reported to the Department of Education, and some of them reported seven times as many rapes as they actually looked into. It seems pretty clear that at least some private colleges think sexual assault investigations hurt their image or profits. But this is a problem among all kinds of institutions, ranging from small liberal arts schools to big city universities.
Meanwhile, 21% of schools provided no training on sexual assault responses for members of faculty or staff, while 31% provided no training to students. A full third failed to provide basic training to people dealing with claims and 43% of the “largest public schools” allow students to help judge reports. An additional 30% don’t even train campus cops on what to do about rape.
Who’s committing all these rapes? Well, according to researcher David Lisak, nine of out ten campus rapes are committed by serial offenders who commit an average of six rapes each. The right-wing counter-narrative that women are reporting fake rapes falls completely apart. And it also means that colleges are shielding repeat offenders either because they don’t want to deal with them or are trying to prevent media attention.
This is of course is making female students much less safe and breeding a culture of impunity among men. Some (generally older) statistics also suggest that male student athletes are much more likely to be sexual offenders than the rest of the school – and some schools are totally complicit. The new report found that 22% of schools put sexual assault charges against athletes under the supervision of the athletic department, which McCaskill called “borderline outrageous.”
The good news is that there has been some progress. Sharply rising levels of reported rape probably reflect more women becoming comfortable with reporting being the victim of a crime. And 64 colleges are now under formal investigation for their handling of sexual assault cases. Their names are publicly listed.
But this really is a damning report, and shows that that progress has not been nearly enough. If anything, the statistics show that a sizable percentage of colleges are still outright ignoring or suppressing rape cases. That is just utter dog shit, and if colleges can’t clean up their act then the feds should make them. Finally, people should know that the nation’s centers of higher learning are looking the other way when students need them most.