College officials often undertrained for sexual assault investigations

Madison Rexroat

Sexual assault has become an epidemic on college campuses, and with more victims gaining the courage and support needed to come forward, it leaves the question of how investigations are handled.

Since 2011, the federal government requires that colleges and universities investigate claims of sexual assault as part of their Title IX obligations. Although that requirement has led to progress in the handling of sexual assault, it has also flooded colleges with publicity and investigations that they are not trained to execute.

College administrators and investigators – if not specially trained in sexual assault cases – are often ill-equipped to deal with the intricacies of talking to victims without victim-blaming or seeming insensitive. They must also communicate with the accused and figure out what exactly happened, keeping in mind the law, each involved person’s credibility, and innocent-until-proven-guilty principles. 

The process, itself, can be confusing, too. States often leave universities to make their own rules and investigation protocols. Some schools require police involvement upon receiving a sexual assault report, while others leave the choice of police involvement to the victim. Punishment is also inconsistent, as those investigated through the criminal justice system can face prison time while students investigated through the university process could be expelled or simply have to write an essay.

For victims and the accused, the time that it takes to conclude an investigation can be gut-wrenching and emotional. Of course, investigators must be thorough and not rush to conclusions, but with more training and experience in sexual assault cases, perhaps that waiting time would be significantly reduced, as would false accusations, victim trauma and repeat offenders.

To read the full article in USA Today College, click here.