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Campuses Fight Sexual Violence

An estimated one in every 10 undergraduate or graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. That is a sobering statistic and one the state of Pennsylvania is working to reduce. In January 2020, the Pennsylvania Education Department began distributing $1 million in grants among 36 different colleges and universities across the state to staff and to provide services for victims of campus rape and sexual assault.

While one in 10 students overall will potentially be raped or sexually assaulted at college, the number increases significantly when you look primarily at undergraduates. Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men are sexually victimized on campus. What is even more concerning about these crimes is that victims are not always willing to report them. Only 20 percent of female student victims between the ages of 18 to 24 report sexual crimes to law enforcement, leaving perpetrators free to victimize others. Only one out of every six college-aged sexual assault survivors accepts help from a victim services agency.

Higher Education Programs to Help Assault Survivors

In June 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed Act 16 into law, which requires colleges and universities to beef up their services for students who are sexually assaulted. Institutions of higher learning must meet two categories of requirements. First, every school must have an online system for students and employees to report complaints of sexual harassment and assault. An effective notification system discloses who is receiving assault complaints, how this information will be used, and where victims can go for help on campus.

Next, colleges and universities must have a clear sexual harassment and assault policy that addresses:

  • The definition of consent and the concept of incapacitation
  • Who the institution considers responsible employees that have the authority and the power to report sexual harassment
  • A distinction between a complaint of sexual misconduct and a report, and the procedures for handling each
  • The rights of both parties, including the respondent who should be notified of the alleged misconduct
  • A standard of proof by which it is determined if misconduct occurred

These new guidelines for Pennsylvania colleges and universities combined with the upwards of $1 million in grants will hopefully make significant progress in reducing the number of assaults among college-aged students, while also eliminating the stigma of reporting them.

In Pennsylvania, colleges and universities have the tools to help prevent sexual assault, raise awareness of the problem among students and staff, and encourage victims to report sexual violence. However, some victims may still feel more could have been done to prevent an assault. At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, our attorneys represent Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning battling serious claims that may damage their reputation and status in the community. To learn more about our services, call 484-318-7106 or use the online form for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.