Sexual Assault on College Campuses in Virginia
Team of Richmond Civil Litigation Lawyers Pursuing Justice
Crimes of sexual violence are becoming more and more prevalent at today's
colleges and universities. In fact, one in five women are sexually assaulted
in college, most often during freshman or sophomore year, according to
the 2014 White House Report. Men can also be the victim of sexual assault
on college campuses.
The term sexual assault encompasses multiple actions, including any sexual
contact that is forced on an individual without their consent.
In 75-80% of cases, the victim knows her attacker (a friend, classmate, ex-boyfriend or acquaintance).
On college campuses, many victims of sexual assault or rape are survivors
of "incapacitated assault," which means that they are abused
while drugged, passed out, drunk or incapacitated in some other way that
makes legal consent to sex impossible.
What You Need to Know
Rape and sexual assault are historically underreported across the United
States. When it comes to assaults on college campuses, underreporting
is even more of a problem. According to the Campus Sexual Assault Study
sponsored by the National Institute of Justice,
only 13% of victims of forcible rape report the crime to local police or campus security. Even more staggering is that a mere
2% of survivors of incapacitated assault survivors report the crime.
Unlike victims of most other crimes, many victims of sexual assault and
rape blame themselves, making it even harder for them to view what happened
to them as a crime that they should report. Still other reasons listed
for not reporting include not knowing to whom to make a report , belief
that nobody will believe their side of the story, embarrassment and shame,
not wanting family and friends to know what happened, and fear of being
treated poorly by the school or the police, to name a few.
Perhaps even more distressing than the huge problem of underreporting is
hearing of students who have reached out to their school administration
and been told they should "just put it all behind" them. In
such a climate as this, it is easy to see why crimes of sexual violence
We believe you have the right to be heard and the right to bring you attacker
to justice. Call (804) 220-0223 today!
The Negative Impact on the Victim
Sexual assault victims suffer from serious and often lifelong physical
injuries. For a college student, specifically, it may cause an interruption in
academic studies. The student's inability to concentrate on schoolwork,
or their inability to go to class at all, can cause a dramatic drop in
grades. A victim may be physically unable to participate in sports activities,
a fact that could result in the loss of a scholarship and severe distress
or depression. The assault may inevitably cause them to drop out of school.
Unfortunately, there are times when victimization does not end with the
initial crime. Negligence on the part of the school in failing to follow
best practices and Title IX regulations in dealing with the assailant
can cause the victim to feel violated all over again.
Below are some of the after-effects of rape and sexual assault experienced
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyper-arousal)
- Disassociation and denial
- Anxiety or depression
- Feelings of shock and disbelief
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Fear and paranoia
- Feeling "numb"
- Anger and sadness
- Insomnia and fatigue
How is a College or University Responsible for Sexual Assault?
Whether or not a survivor of sexual assault is able to receive justice
in the criminal system, she may have a valid claim for damages in the
There are several ways that a college can be held liable for a victim's damages:
- Liability for acts of their employees;
- Negligent security;
- Failure to protect students in on-campus housing;
- Failing to comply with laws and best practices in handling sexual violence
- Providing a climate for assaultive crime; and
In the event that the sexual assault involved an employee of the school
(a professor, student advisor, resident advisor, etc.), the school may
be responsible through a legal doctrine known as "respondeat
superior." Basically, this doctrine states that in various circumstances,
an employer is responsible for the actions of their employees that are
performed or committed in the course of the individual's employment.
This doctrine potentially comes into play in cases of sexual violence on
campus in various circumstances. Colleges and universities have a duty
to protect their students in on-campus housing. There is, first, an overall
duty to exercise reasonable care in preventing harm to those who the college
is providing services to (the students). Colleges, however, can be held
to an even higher duty of care, requiring that they do even more than
just what is "reasonable" to protect their students from harm,
particularly in their dorm rooms.
Is your college responsible for not protecting you to the best of its ability?
Tell us what happened in a free
Who Is Held Liable?
Institutions of higher education can also be held liable for a sexual assault
survivor's injuries if they have fostered a climate for assaultive
crime. On a college campus, several factors can contribute to a climate
that may lead to assaultive crime.
These can include but are not limited to:
- Lacking proper alcohol and drug enforcement policies.
- Failure of campus security to follow and enforce policies.
- Allowing parties with underage drinking to be "the norm."
- Failing to prosecute those who violate alcohol and drug rules.
- Placing predators in positions of trust (as resident advisors or peer advisors.)
About the Campus Security Act
Colleges and universities may also be responsible for a campus sexual assault
survivor's injuries and damages if the school engaged in fraud, or
concealing certain crimes, such as instances of sexual assault. Known
first as the Campus Security Act, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus
Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the "Clery Act")
(20 USC § 1092(f)) is a landmark federal law that
requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around
their campuses. The law applies to most public and private colleges and
universities and is enforced by the United States Department of Education.
Under the reporting requirements of the Clery Act, schools must prepare,
publish and distribute (upon request) an annual security report that contains
statistics regarding the occurrence of crime on campus. This must be sent
to all students, employees, applicants for admission, and applicants for
If prospective students and their parents request information about crimes
of sexual violence, colleges and universities must provide accurate statistics
so that the students can make informed decisions about where to attend
school. If schools fail to provide truthful and accurate information (including
Clery Act information), or provide misleading information, they may have
committed fraud and may be liable if a student who relied on that misinformation
Findings of the McCaskill Senate Report
Schools can also be held liable for their failure to properly handle the
aftermath of a college sexual assault. In 2014, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
requested an in-depth study be done to assess how colleges and universities
report, investigate, and adjudicate acts of sexual violence. The resulting
report, "Sexual Violence on Campus: How Too Many Institutions of
Higher Education are Failing to Protect Students," was published
in July of 2014 and reviewed 440 colleges and universities and incorporated
information obtained through interviews and roundtable discussions.
The McCaskill study indicates a serious problem at America's colleges
and universities. Survey results showed that many colleges and universities are not complying
with the law and known best practices with respect to how they handle
crimes of sexual violence among students. The problems affect almost every
stage of the institutions' responses to sexual violence.
Below are some of the highlights of the important and troubling findings
from the McCaskill Senate report:
Reported sexual violence goes uninvestigated
- Lack of knowledge about the scope of the problem
- Failure to encourage reporting of sexual violence
- Lack of adequate sexual assault training
- Lack of adequate services for survivors
- Lack of trained, coordinated law enforcement
- Adjudication fails to comply with requirements and best practices
- Lack of coordinated oversight
How We Can Help You
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a sexual assault or rape on
a college campus, the Richmond civil litigation attorneys at the Halperin
Law Center have the experience, knowledge, and compassion necessary to
seek justice for you. 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.
Contact us at (804) 220-0223 and let us put our experience to work for you while
you focus on getting back to your life.