February 24, 2010
Anna Christopher, NPR
TO PROTECT WOMEN FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT
NPR'S JOSEPH SHAPIRO REPORTS THAT STUDENTS GUILTY OF ASSAULT ARE RARELY EXPELLED, VICTIMS RECEIVE LITTLE HELP FROM COLLEGES OR GOVERNMENT
MULTIPART SERIES, IN COLLABORATION WITH CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, BEGINS TODAY, FEBRUARY 24, CONTINUES NEXT WEEK
The series began today on Morning Edition with an introduction from Shapiro, and continues tomorrow and Friday on All Things Considered, which will broadcast a two-part report by Shapiro on the story of one victim's struggle for justice. Next week on the NPR news and talk show Tell Me More, host Michel Martin will examine the issue from the viewpoint of school administrators dealing with assault cases. All reports in the series will be available at NPR.org, along with reporting and resource information from the Center for Public Integrity. For local stations and broadcast times for NPR programs, please visit www.npr.org/stations
Through interviews with victims of sexual assault and their families, and research from the Center for Public Integrity investigation, Shapiro reports of systemic problems with the campus policing system, and with the government's oversight of campus safety. The U.S. Department of Education regulates campuses under the Jeanne Clery Act, which forces schools to disclose all crime that happens on campus. But Shapiro reports that when victims of assault on campus turn to the Department for help, which very few students know to do, it rarely acts. Between 1998 and 2008, the Department ruled against just five universities out of 24 complaints, and there was no punishment in those cases, simply guidance on how to improve campus procedures.
Presented with these findings, Russlynn Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights, says her office is stepping up outreach to students, so they know their rights, and to schools, so they know their responsibilities. Ali tells NPR: "We want them to get training, we want to provide some help so that the adults and the students alike can ensure that this plague – it's really has become a plague in this country – begins to diminish."
In a two-part report, Shapiro explores the story of one university student who was sexually assaulted, and her struggle to get justice and feel safe again. After telling campus police she'd been raped by a student who lived down the hall, she and her family found the school's policing system unable to handle her case. The campus police hadn't collected evidence or formally questioned the man accused or rape, and discouraged her family from getting an order of protection for their daughter. A campus judicial hearing found the man responsible for "inappropriate sexual conduct" but gave the man just a mild suspension. The woman and her family asked the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to investigate, but the office found that the university had acted appropriately.
The NPR/CPI investigation found that colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault. Reporters at the Center for Public Integrity discovered a database of about 130 colleges and universities that received federal grants because they wanted to do a better job dealing with sexual assault. It shows that even when men at those schools were found responsible for sexual assault, only 10 to 25 percent of them were expelled.
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The NPR News Investigative Unit crosses all news desks and programs to build upon, and strengthen the commitment to, NPR's established investigative work. Last week, an international NPR News Investigation took three correspondents across three continents to compile an in-depth portrait of the life, background and eventual radicalization of Christmas Day bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Other recent investigative series include an exposé on the bail bond system, which keeps a half-million non-violent inmates in jail because they can't make bail, and a three-part series produced in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting on the U.S. government's use of confidential informants.