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Sexual Violence at Institutions of Higher Education

Sexual Violence at Institutions of Higher Education published on

Authored by Congressional Research Service

In recent years, a number of high-profile incidents of sexual violence at institutions of higher education (IHEs) have heightened congressional and administration scrutiny of the policies and procedures that IHEs currently have in place to address campus sexual violence and how these policies and procedures can be improved. Campus sexual violence is widely acknowledged to be a problem. However, reported data on the extent of sexual violence at IHEs varies considerably across studies for a variety of methodological and other reasons. Victims of sexual violence may suffer from a range of physical and mental health conditions including injuries, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidality, and substance abuse. College students who are the victims of sexual violence may experience a decline in academic performance, and they may drop out, leave school, or transfer.

Currently, there are two federal laws that address sexual violence on college campuses: the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act, P.L. 101-542) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX, P.L. 92-318). These two statutes differ in significant respects, including in their purpose, coverage, enforcement, and remedies.

The Clery Act requires all public and private IHEs that participate in the student financial assistance programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA, P.L. 89-329) of 1965 to track crimes in and around their campuses and to report these data to their campus community and to the Department of Education (ED). ED’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) Office oversees educational institutions’ compliance with Title IV student financial aid requirements, including requirements related to the Clery Act. In this role, FSA conducts program reviews of IHEs’ compliance with student aid and Clery provisions.

Title IX is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex under any education program or activity that receives federal funding. Under Title IX, sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence, is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. Unlike the Clery Act, whose coverage is limited to IHEs that receive student financial aid funds under the HEA, Title IX is applicable to recipients of any type of federal education funding, including any public or private elementary, secondary, and postsecondary school that receives such funds. Although each federal agency enforces Title IX compliance among its own recipients, ED, which administers the vast majority of federal education programs, is the primary agency conducting administrative enforcement of Title IX. Such enforcement by ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may occur as part of a routine compliance audit or in response to a complaint filed by an individual.

Members of Congress have been actively involved in seeking ways to improve how IHEs respond to, investigate, and adjudicate incidents of campus sexual violence. Several bills that would strengthen existing laws pertaining to campus sexual violence have been introduced during the 113th Congress. In January 2014, the Obama Administration established a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. In April 2014, the Task Force issued its first report-Not Alone- and created a website that addresses campus sexual violence. Among other things, the report included an extensive list of actions that the Administration will take (or has already taken) to address campus sexual violence.

Publication Date:
Oct 23 2014
1503006816 / 9781503006812
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Related Categories:
Education / Higher


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