Did you know: if a college has failed to promptly and effectively address a sexual assault reported to them, they are violating federal law?
Survivors may file a report of these violations up to 7 years later.
While sexual assault has been a pervasive problem on college campuses across the U.S. for decades, just recently has some light been shed on the issue by the ever media-popular Penn State Scandal. While it may bring some much needed publicity to the issue, the media circus surrounding the scandal lulls us into a false sense of security that this is a rare, and isolated incident, a “scandal” to the American public.
Unfortunately sexual assault is far from uncommon, especially as far as college campuses are concerned. As I have mentioned before 1 in 4 college women will experience an attempted or completed rape. 1 in 13 college men admit to behaviors which fit the legal definition of sexual assault.
In 1990 congress passed a law, the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, later amended to the Jeane Cleary Act in 1998, which required public and private institutions to report crimes on campus to a federal data base. The law was also amended to include a Campus Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights, and more specific reporting standards. Why then, twenty-one years after the law was passed, do so many campus survivors face a “climate of silence” and endless webs of red tape surrounding sexual assaults committed on campus?
Unfortunately, while the goal of the law was to encourage institutions to adopt more comprehensive prevention programming, it simultaneously gave many colleges a reason to dismiss crimes, and to handle disciplinary action “in-house” in order to avoid tarnishing their reputations. While many colleges have adpted wholistic responses to assault on campus, many still minimize crimes on campus and survivors consequently feel undersupported and re-victimized by the institution itself.
Because of this, both the Cleary Act and Title IX outline specific rights afforded to campus victims, and provide a means to file complaints with the Department of Education against the institution if these rights are violated.
Common Experiences of Campus Sexual Assault Survivors:
-The assault is reported to campus officials but never reported to local law enforcement. And the accuser is never informed of his/her right to report the crime.
–A campus judiciary hearing is requested but “delayed” until after the accused or accuser graduate.
-Campus officials will delay any action against the accused “pending an outcome from the criminal investigation/trial”
-Survivors struggle in school because they are not made aware of their rights to academic and/or residential accommodation
-The accuser will be asked to sit down with the accused and “talk it out”
-The accused is allowed to bring multiple witnesses and supports to the judicial hearing, while the accuser was allowed only his/ her advocate.
If you or someone you know has experienced any of the above, your rights may have been violated under federal law. You may want to review the following:
Federal Campus Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights (Jean Cleary Act)
- Accuser and accused must have the same opportunity to have others present.
- Both parties shall be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
- Survivors shall be informed of their options to notify law enforcement.
- Survivors shall be notified of counseling services.
- Survivors shall be notified of options for changing academic and living situations.
Title IX Provisions
Colleges must promptly and effectively address reports of sexual assault on campus. For specific provisions of Title IX please visit: http://www.securityoncampus.org/pages/titleixsummary.html
If you wish to file a report, Security On Campus’ Victim Advocacy Page is a good place to start. Please visit: http://www.securityoncampus.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44&Itemid=27
When filing a report you should know:
You are eligible to file a report with the Department of Education if:
-You were sexually assaulted on campus
-You reported the assault to campus officials
-Campus officials/ the school violated your rights under the Cleary Act or Title IX
The statute of limitations for Cleary Act complaints is 7 years.
The statute of limitations for Title IX violations is 180 days.
Timelines and written communication between you and the school are helpful.
You are not alone, local and national advocates are available to support and guide you through the process!