Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today released new data on Title IX sexual violence complaints and the Department of Education’s efforts to combat sexual assault on college campuses. In a letter responding to calls for transparency from Senators Boxer and Gillibrand, the Department highlighted its efforts to close difficult cases and urged Congress to increase funding to handle its increasing case load. Senator Kaine sent a similar letter to the Secretary Arne Duncan in December.
A copy of the Education Department’s letter can be found here.
“This new data makes clear why the Education Department must step up its efforts to address the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, and why Congress must ensure it has the resources it needs to protect students,” Senator Boxer said.
“These figures still don’t reflect even conservative estimates of the actual incidence of sexual assault and rape on campuses, and still the Department of Education lacks the resources to promptly investigate the few complaints against schools that are filed,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This data is the latest example of why we need to flip the incentives so that schools properly address the problem of sexual assault on their campuses, and make sure the Department of Education has the funding it needs to enforce the laws, review complaints and help prevent campus sexual assault.”
“This data underscores that more must be done to address the backlog of ongoing Title IX investigations into how college campuses handle sexual assault, including the UVA investigation that has been pending since June 2011,” said Senator Kaine. “It’s critical that universities get timely feedback so they can take proactive steps to improve campus sexual violence prevention policies. Congress must do its part by approving additional funding to help the Office of Civil Rights manage its large caseload and by passing legislation, including the Teach Safe Relationships Act and S.O.S. Campus Act, that would help prevent sexual assault and provide support for survivors.”
Within the Department, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigates and enforces all civil rights violations under Title IX. From Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 to FY2014 sexual violence complaints at higher education institutions increased more than 1000 percent – from 9 to 102 – and as of April 8, 2015, 51 have been filed for FY2015.
While OCR attempts to resolve all complaints in 180 days, the Department said in the letter that sexual violence investigations are, on average, taking much longer to complete because the cases “tend to be complex and may involve systemic, campus- and institution-wide issues, in addition to issues pertaining to specific students.” The average length of sexual violence investigations from FY2009 to FY2014 has increased from 379 days to 1,469 days, in part because of the increased caseload. In the current year, FY2015, the Department said the average duration of a sexual violence investigation was 940 days.
The Clery Act, enforced by the Federal Student Aid office (FSA), requires higher education institutions that receive federal financial assistance to report crime statistics to DOE, and make those statistics available to the public. Forcible sex offenses nearly doubled between FY2009 and FY2013, increasing from 3,264 reported offenses to 6,016.
In the letter, the Department said that the increased reporting reflects efforts to increase awareness of sexual assault nationwide, including NotAlone.gov, a resource hub for students, parents and stakeholders on prevention strategies and survivor resources. The Department also requested additional funding from Congress to tackle the increased caseload.
In March, Senators Boxer, Gillibrand and Kaine sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to approve funding for OCR in FY2016 at the levels requested by President Obama – at least $131 million.