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Campus Sexual Assault: How America's Institutions of Higher Education Respond

NCJ Number
Date Published
327 pages
This 1999 study examined how institutions of higher education (IHE) are responding to the threat of sexual assaults on campus in the areas of prevention, victim support services, reporting policies, protocols, barriers, facilitators, adjudication procedures, and sanctions.
This congressionally mandated investigation required the collection of multiple forms of data. Mechanisms for data collection included a content analysis of published sexual assault policy materials from a nationally representative sample of IHEs, field research at eight colleges and universities, electronic focus groups with campus administrators, and research on State legislation. The national sample was composed of 2,438 institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico, including all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) (n=98) and all Native American tribal schools (n=28). All nine types of schools eligible for Title IV funding were represented in the sample. The study found that most responding campuses did articulate some definition of rape and other forms of sexual assault that helped inform their response and reporting policies; however, there were no standard definitions of rape and sexual assault. Further, the study determined that 4-year public and private nonprofit institutions have made substantial progress in the development of explicit sexual assault policies. Smaller, for-profit, nonresidential IHEs were lagging behind in this area. The study also found that few campuses provided sexual assault response and/or sensitivity training to those most likely to first hear of sexual assaults on the campus, i.e., friends and fellow students, campus law enforcement/security officers, and faculty members. Another finding was that more than 75 percent of the Nation's IHEs offered campus sexual assault victims confidential reporting options. Active support from friends was found to be the primary factor that distinguished victims who reported the crime to campus and/or local authorities and those who did not. Only 37.6 percent of IHEs required sexual assault sensitivity training for campus law enforcement/security officers. Only 40 percent of the schools provided students sexual assault response training. Approximately 25 percent of the schools provided victim-related support services to special populations of students. Due process procedures for the accused were used at only 37.3 percent of IHEs. The most common penalties used by 4-year residential institutions were expulsion, suspension, and administrative actions such as no-contact orders. A minority of IHEs imposed sanctions on fraternities and athletic teams. Based on the study findings, two types of recommendations are offered: those aimed at providing support to IHEs and in creating comprehensive sexual assault policies that are specific to school type, as well as those that suggest areas in need of further examination. Extensive tables, 104 references, and appended data-collection forms and methodological details

Date Published: January 1, 2001