Campus Sexual Assault: A New Report and Project

December 02, 2009

During their college careers, 20 to 25 percent of women face sexual assault, and many campuses aren’t doing enough to keep students safe or offering them appropriate avenues for reporting the crime.

This week the Center for Public Integrity released a report called “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice.” Staff at the Center interviewed 48 experts familiar with the college disciplinary process, surveyed 152 crisis services programs and clinics on or near college campuses, and interviewed 33 women who reported being raped by other students during their nine-month investigation.

One of the Center’s key findings was that most students who are sexually victimized do not report it. This finding is supported by a 2000 Justice Department study, which found that up to 95 percent of students did not report a sexual assault.

While there are many reasons why people do not report, the most often cited reason in the Center’s investigation was institutional barriers on campus. Two examples of these institutional barriers are administrators who respond to students with disbelief or other inappropriate behavior and campus judiciary processes that are difficult to understand and follow. Many students who were discouraged because of these barriers transferred or withdrew from their schools, while their alleged attackers were almost uniformly unpunished.

Students interested in investigating sexual assault cases on their campus can use a companion toolkit produced by the Center to do so. The Center will be releasing more report materials from their investigation in the coming months.

Fortuitously, given the Center’s findings, a brand-new project was launched this week to systematically address the nationwide problem of insufficient campus sexual assault policies and accountability for sexual assault. Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), a former AAUW Community Action Grant recipient, and V-Day launched a four-phase Campus Accountability Project. Their initiatives include the following highlights:

  • SAFER and V-Day encourage students to research their schools’ sexual assault policies, prevention programs, and response protocol and submit their findings to SAFER and V-Day.
  • SAFER and V-Day will provide tools and mentorship to any students who want to reform their school’s sexual assault policy and the way the school prevents and responds to sexual assault.
  • During the 2011–12 school year, SAFER and V-Day will follow up with individual students and review all the data collected to assess the nation overall. They will update their reports on campus sexual assault policies and advise the media of their findings.
  • At that time they will work to have the Campus Accountability Project Database integrated into existing college ranking systems so that a weighted rating system of campus sexual assault policies is available for prospective students and their families.

Is sexual assault a problem on your campus? Check out SAFER’s website and learn more about their initiatives and how you can get involved.

Holly Kearl By:   |   December 02, 2009


  1. Katie says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been following the work of SAFER since it started as a grassroots student campaign at Columbia University, where I was a student.

    It’s great to see that the report on this crucial issue is being followed up with a tangible intervention — the database project. I just checked it out and it looks really useful.

  2. Elan Abrell says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to this amazing project! I just checked out SAFER website, which provides direct access to the Database. This is an excellent resource.

  3. SAFER sounds like a great program.

  4. Holly Kearl says:

    Thanks everyone. I continue to be impressed what SAFER accomplishes, especially as it’s primarily a volunteer-driven and run organization. They are inspiring and it would be amazing if their work led to the inclusion of sexual assault policy ratings in overall school ratings.

  5. […] folks who have included the Campus Accountability Project in their coverage of the CPI report. Thank you thank you thank you. As Nora posted before me, we’ve already gotten submissions and are so […]

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