Lawmakers Unearth Failures To Investigate Campus Sex Crimes

According to survey results released by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., many American colleges are breaking the law by failing to respond to sexual assault allegations on campus.

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U.S. colleges are failing to investigate sex crimes on their campuses. That's the conclusion of a new national survey commissioned by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. The survey is part of an effort by several senators to reduce sexual assaults in college and change a culture where only 5 percent of victims report the crime. NPR's Laura Sullivan reports from the capital.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Senator Claire McCaskill and other senators have been studying the high rate of sexual abuse on college campuses across the country. She called today's survey results disturbing and a wake-up call.

SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: There are way too many schools that are failing and just about every single institution in the country has room for improvement.

SULLIVAN: Federal law requires colleges that receive federal funding to conduct an investigation if there is reason to believe a sexual assault may have occurred. But 41 percent of schools surveyed, including some of the largest colleges in the country, did not conduct a single investigation in the past five years. In other words, they didn't have any assaults. McCaskill says that's just not possible. The Justice Department's most recent report found 1 in 5 college women say they were raped or sexually assaulted while in school.

MCCASKILL: A University, particularly a large institution that has 10,000 or more students - if they're saying they have not had any investigations, that means they are in denial or they're incompetent or they're not taking this problem seriously.

SULLIVAN: The survey does not name schools individually. McCaskill says protecting their anonymity was key to getting more than 60 percent of them to respond. But the results suggest schools are all over the map on how they handle possible cases. Forty-three percent of the nation's largest public schools let students help adjudicate cases involving their classmates. Twenty-two percent of institutions let the athletic department adjudicate the cases if they involve an athlete. McCaskill says she will introduce legislation before school starts in the fall. She says as important as it is for college women to report assaults and for college administrators to investigate them, it is also important for college men to recognize such behavior for what it is and take responsibility for it. Laura Sullivan, NPR News, the Capitol.

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