McCaskill wants info from Education, Justice on campus sexual assaults

April 1, 2014

Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., left, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte R-N.H., right, meet with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Both spoke ahead of a potential renewed Senate floor debate over additional measures to curb rapes and sexual assaults in the military. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Watch out. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is turning her attention from sexual assault in the nation’s military to what appears to be an epidemic of rape on the country’s college campuses.

In a move that’s timed to coincide with the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the former sex crimes prosecutor has sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan requesting in-person briefings by April 11.

Read McCaskill’s letters to Holder and Duncan.

McCaskill wants specific data on the process for reporting sexual assaults by colleges and universities, copies of training materials for institutions and local law enforcement, information on what kind of guidance is provided to schools and other agencies on the reporting and legal procedures of sexual assault and the details of how many enforcement actions have occurred since 1991. Possibly most important is the number of cases that are handled by campuses versus the local legal system.

Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at college and universities — and sexual assault and violence are considered discrimination — applies to any college or university that receives federal funds. As many as 19 percent of college women, with freshman at the highest risk, have been victims of sexual assault.

“I fear that, like the U.S. military, we’re going to find problems on college campuses just as systemic as our troops faced—including very low reporting due to lack of protections and resources,” said McCaskill in a statement. “No young man or woman should be left on their own after being victimized, and our schools must provide the highest level of responsiveness to ensure victims are empowered, and perpetrators are held accountable.”

The White House established a task force in January to protect college students from sexual assault. Former President Jimmy Carter also discussed the issue in his book released last week “A Call to Action.”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.
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