What Senator McCaskill's Report Means for Your Campus

Senator McCaskill Reports on Campus Sexual Violence

Posted on 20 August 2014 |

“Institutions of higher learning should not, and cannot, wait for the new federal law to correct their failures.  A new commitment to comply with current law, and use best practices that protect and empower students, and hold perpetrators accountable is nothing short of urgent.”

--  July 10, 2014, Sen. Claire McCaskill, USA Today

Below are the key findings and recommendations from the report released by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on July 09, 2014. You can read the full report here.

Summary of Findings:

The report concludes that "many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices" in handling sexual violence, and that these problems can be found at every stage in the response process.

  1. Schools Don’t Know the Scope of the Problem: Sexual assaults on college campuses are widely underreported.  According to the most recent report conducted by the Department of Justice, less than 5% of rape victims attending college report their attack to law enforcement.
  2. Schools Fail to Encourage Reporting of Sexual Violence: Only 51% of institutions in the national sample provide a hotline to survivors and only 44% of institutions in the national sample provide the option to report sexual assaults online.
  3. Schools Fail to Provide Sexual Assault Response Training for Faculty and Staff:  The first person to whom a sexual assault survivor reports the incident is often a member of the institution’s faculty or staff.  The quality of that experience can have a tremendous impact on whether a victim obtains access to services and/or chooses to pursue accountability for the perpetrator of the assault. 
  4. Institutions Fail to Provide Adequate Sexual Assault Training for Students: Prevention and response education for students can drastically lower the incidence of sexual assaults, both by educating potential perpetrators about what constitutes sexual assault and also by educating future bystanders on how to recognize and safely intervene to prevent sexual assault.  More than 30% of schools do not provide any sexual assault training for students.
  5. Investigation of Sexual Assault Reports by Institutions: Every institution that knows or reasonably should have known about sexual violence has an obligation to conduct an investigation to determine what occurred.  This obligation to investigate is independent of any other investigation (for example, law enforcement) that may cover the incident.  More than 40% of schools have not conducted a single investigation in the past five years.
  6. Lack of Trained, Coordinated Law Enforcement: Regardless of their affiliation, many law enforcement officials lack adequate training in how to respond to reports of sexual violence. Due to the widespread concerns regarding the handling of sexual assault cases by local law enforcement, many sexual assault survivors prefer to avoid reporting to police at all.  More than 70% of institutions in the national sample do not have protocols regarding how the institution and local law enforcement should work together to respond to sexual violence.
  7. Institutions Fail to Provide Adequate Services to Sexual Assault Survivors: Sexual violence survivors may need a variety of different services, including academic and residential accommodations, to enable them to continue their education after the assault. However, many schools do not include representatives of services that could help the survivor. Only 25% of institutions that use a team approach incorporate the local prosecutor’s office. 
  8. Formal Adjudication Processes Fail to Comply with Requirements and Best Practices: Institutions are not required to have a separate grievance procedure for sexual harassment or sexual violence cases. As a result, many use the same student conduct adjudication process for sexual assault cases that they use for other types of student misconduct, such as cheating or plagiarism.  More than 30% of institutions in the national sample failed to provide training regarding “rape myths” to the persons who adjudicate sexual assault claims.
  9. Failure to Comply with Oversight Requirements: Despite the legal requirement, More than 10% of institutions in the Subcommittee’s national sample do not have a Title IX coordinator.

Proposed Solutions:

The report recommends several best practices to improve the handling of sexual violence on campus. 

  • Sexual Assault Training for Faculty, Staff and Students: Prevention and response education, including bystander intervention training, for students can drastically lower the incidence of sexual assaults.  Faculty, staff and campus law enforcement officials need training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence.
  • Annual Climate Surveys: Experts agree that annual climate surveys—confidential student surveys regarding behaviors that constitute or are associated with sexual assault—are one of the best ways to get an accurate portrait of sexual assault issues on a campus.
  • Tools to Report instances of Sexual Violence: There are many policies and procedures on campus that have been shown to improve reporting of sexual violence.  These include providing a hotline or website as a reporting tool, having a designated official who can receive reports, and permitting survivor reports to be kept confidentially.
  • Sexual Assault Response Teams: One of the more effective responses to sexual violence in general has been the use of coordinated Sexual Assault Response Teams.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): A specially trained nurse who can provide medical and other services to survivors of sexual assault.

What This Means for Your Campus?

Senator McCaskill’s report is consistent with and provides evidence to support VAWA/ Campus SaVE Act regulations.  It goes on to make some additional recommendations such as the Annual Climate Survey and the need for online tools to report instances of sexual violence.  The Senator is likely to lead to further legislative action in 2014 to make campuses safer for students.  However, in the Senator’s own words, colleges and universities should take action now rather than waiting for legislative action.  In fact, in May 2013, The Department of Education issued preliminary guidance clarifying that while the institutions await the VAWA/ Campus SaVE Act and other proposed regulations, the Department expects them to make “good faith efforts” to comply with the new law.  Training students, faculty and staff is a great way to demonstrate the good faith efforts. 

Learn more about Student Empower here.

Student Empower from Campus Answers: The Student Empower solution from Campus Answers addresses the recommended training requirements from SaVE Act/ Campus SaVE Act as well as Senator McCaskill’s report such as the incident reporting and campus survey tools.  Student Empower is the most comprehensive training and prevention program covering students, staff, and faculty and law enforcement officials.

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