According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in five undergraduate women have been the victims of sexual assault. Many victims do not report sexual assaults, so the actual numbers are likely higher. Survivors and organizations that support them, such as End Rape on Campus, have pointed out that often a university’s response to a student’s sexual assault makes her life even more difficult. Although under current federal law, a penalty may be imposed for a school’s failure to investigate a sexual assault, that penalty, loss of student financial aid, has never been imposed.
Last week a bipartisan group of US senators introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, that would make the penalty for failure to investigate sexual assaults more realistic, and would require annual anonymous surveys of a school’s students. The bill would require that the results of the survey be posted online, so that students and parents could make more informed choices when investigating colleges.
The bill is not likely to pass this year, we are told. However, we are hopeful that Congress can put aside it’s bickering and come together to support our nation’s students, since something clearly needs to be done. According to a survey conducted by the office of one of the bill’s sponsors, 41% of the colleges and universities surveyed had conducted no investigations of alleged sexual assaults over the past five years, even though some of those schools had reported sexual violence incidents during that time to the Department of Education.