Sexual Abuse on College Campus

Sexual Abuse on College Campus

You have options. Sexual assault should not be part of the college experience. You do not have to face this battle alone. We are tireless legal advocates for victims of rape and sexual assault in the civil justice system.

College campus sexual abuse is increasing.

One in five women, mostly freshman and sophomore students, will be sexually assaulted, and about three-quarters of the time, the victim is familiar with the attacker (friend, classmate, ex, or acquaintance).

Men, as well as women, are victims of sexual abuse, which includes any non-consensual physical contact.

At the request of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a report prepared by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight assessed how colleges and universities report, investigate, and adjudicate sexual violence. Entitled “Sexual Violence on Campus: How Too Many Institutions of Higher Education are Failing to Protect Students,” the report noted how many universities and colleges fail to comply with the law and apply known best practices.

Survivors of “Incapacitated Assault”

On college campuses, abuse is often perpetrated on victims while drugged, drunk, or incapacitated — thereby making legal consent to sex impossible.

Unlike victims of most other crimes, many rape victims themselves, making it even harder for them to view what happened as a crime that they should report. Often, victims keep to themselves concerned over the social risk, especially if they know the perpetrator. At a small or midsize college, the predator is likely to be a part of the victim’s social circle.

According to the recent surveys, 42% of the “physically forced” victims didn’t report the crime because they “did not want anyone to know.”

Rapists are very often repeat offenders.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the Campus Sexual Assault Study reported only 13% of victims of forcible rape file a complaint, and a mere 2% of survivors of incapacitated assault survivors report the crime.

We find those numbers staggering.

The abused may not clearly understand what constitutes rape, as a 2007 survey notes 35% of victims didn’t report the incident because it was “unclear that it was a crime or that harm was intended.”

Victims also report concerns that police won’t believe their stories, and their colleges discouraged reporting. Told by the university to “put it all behind,” it is easy to understand why the underreporting of sexual violence occurs.

As TIME writes, “A passive observer might wonder, shouldn’t these serious crimes be dealt with by the police? The answer, it turns out, is that administrators and police will have to work together to address the problem.”

The Victim’s Negative Impact

Victim’s of sexual assault often will suffer from permanent emotional and physical injuries. College students can experience a dramatic drop in grades; they may be physically unable to participate in sports, which in turn could impact scholarships. Severe depression or distress can cause victims to drop out of school.

Victims of sexual abuse can suffer these after-effects:

  • PTSD
  • Denial and disassociation
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed, shock and disbelief
  • Paranoia and fear
  • Fatigue and insomnia

Holding a College or University Responsible

Outside of the criminal justice system, a sexual assault survivor may have a valid damage claim in civil court. There are several ways that a college can be held liable for a victim’s damages:

  • Employee liability
  • Fraud
  • Faulty or negligent security
  • Failure to protect students
  • Failing to comply with best practices
  • Providing a climate for assaultive crime

If the perpetrator is a school employee, the institution may be held responsible based on “respondeat superior.” Simply put, this doctrine states the employer is responsible for employee’s actions done while on the clock.

Colleges have a duty to exercise reasonable care in preventing harm to students housed on-campus. Institutions can also be held to a higher level of care, requiring that they do even more than just what is “reasonable” to protect their students from harm, particularly in their dorm rooms.

Who Is Held Liable?

If an institution of higher education fosters a climate for assaultive crime, it can be held liable for a sexual assault survivor’s injuries. Several factors can contribute to an environment that may lead to assaultive crime, including:

  • Lacking proper drug and alcohol enforcement policies
  • Failure of campus security to follow and enforce policies.
  • Allowing underage drinking to be “the norm.”
  • Failing to prosecute those who violate drug and alcohol rules.
  • Placing predators in positions of trust

Campus Security Act

If a college or university engages in fraud or conceals certain crimes, it may also be held responsible for a campus sexual assault survivor’s injuries and damages. Known first as the Campus Security Act, this landmark federal law requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

Our attorneys are experienced in all facets and types of sexual abuse cases. Contact us today to see if we can help.

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