Sexual Assault on Campus

Students attending college should expect to find a safe and supportive campus environment. Campus safety issues—particularly as they relate to incidents of sexual assault—are receiving heightened national attention, as they should. Initiatives to enhance campus safety must assure the safety and fair treatment of all students. They must also be flexible enough to be adapted to the particular circumstances of each institution.


Colleges and universities have seen an increased and sustained focus on their handling of sexual assaults on their campuses. Recent Congresses and the Obama Administration launched numerous initiatives aimed at highlighting the issue, devising approaches to address it, and strengthening enforcement, although the Trump Administration has made several significant changes to these efforts. Many states have also launched initiatives in this area.

In addition, advocacy groups have been active in highlighting the issue, and the topic has received widespread media attention.

Federal Requirements and Initiatives

Two federal laws address sexual violence at institutions of higher education. The first is the Clery Act, which addresses Campus Safety by requiring institutions of higher education to disclose campus crime statistics and security policies. The Clery Act was amended most recently by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.  Final regulations implementing these changes went into effect on July 1, 2015.

The second federal law that addresses campus sexual assault is Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs or activities. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights aggressively pursued Title IX enforcement activities through the end of the Obama Administration. During this period, the Department issued guidance documents related to campus sexual assault in 2011, 2014, and 2015

The Trump Administration, however, has rescinded the 2011 and 2014 campus sexual assault guidance and replaced it with new, interim guidance. The interim guidance, which provides additional flexibility to institutions and protections for students accused of sexual misconduct, will remain in effect until the Department finalizes regulations via the notice-and-comment rulemaking process. The Department has also modified its Title IX enforcement efforts with respect to campus sexual assault by shifting investigative focus to other types of discrimination claims, and by reducing the length and breadth of investigations.

Additionally, bipartisan legislation — most notably the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) — has been introduced in recent congressional sessions.  Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act could also provide an opportunity to address the issue, and the House Republican proposal to reauthorize the HEA contains a number of provisions related to campus sexual assault.

In the News


NAICU Washington Updates

What You Can Do

  • Ensure that your campus has appropriate policies and procedures in place to address incidents of sexual assault.
  • Identify and develop relationships with local law enforcement and community service providers.
  • Ensure your campus is in compliance with federal requirements under the Clery campus safety act and Title IX—as well as applicable state and local laws.

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