Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., conducted the survey and is expected to introduce a bipartisan bill about colleges’ response to sexual assault later this summer. The problem, McCaskill says, is that when a victim reports sexual assault, it does not necessarily mean a school looks into the accusation.
“It’s troubling to me that they are reporting more incidents than they actually had investigations,” McCaskill told USA Today. “That means that they are reporting some incidents that they clearly have not even bothered to investigate.”
GW reported 37 alleged incidents of forcible sexual assault to the Department of Education between 2010 and 2012, according to the most recently available data.
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the total number of investigations GW has conducted over the last five years. But she confirmed that the University has conducted investigations into sexual assault complaints.
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses, which affects one in five women, has come to the forefront of national politics over the last several months after a White House task force formed to tackle the trend this spring. Still, aides say a McCaskill bill could face a tough congressional battle, taking up to two years to pass.
More than 20 percent of the nation’s largest private schools that were included in the study conducted fewer investigations than the number of reported incidents. The survey did not name the schools.
Sexual assault is one of the few crimes in which a victim can decide not to proceed with an investigation after reporting it. It is also one of the most underreported crimes nationwide, and fewer reports or investigations does not necessarily mean fewer assaults.
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed, who oversees GW’s compliance with the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX, said the University meets many of the benchmarks listed in the survey, including offering confidential reporting and conducting an anonymous survey about harassment, stalking and dating violence.
“We are committed to working as an entire community and with the federal government to protect students from sexual assault,” Reed wrote in an email, adding that she had received a copy of the survey Wednesday and was reviewing it.
The study found that one-third of the schools did not educate their students about sexual assault, and about 20 percent of the schools did not provide training to faculty or staff. Sexual violence education is incorporated into GW’s Colonial Inauguration programming and several Greek chapters began holding bystander intervention trainings for their members this spring.
Though the survey only looked at a small sample of schools, it comes as more than 60 schools are under investigation for their responses to sexual assault. Under the federal Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to report sexual assaults and all crimes that occur on campus.
About three-quarters of the surveyed schools have no set procedures for how they and law enforcement officials should handle sexual violence, and about 30 percent of law enforcement officials at those schools do not receive any training on sexual violence.