Study Shows Colleges Continue to Underreport Sexual Assault

A recent study found that sexual assault reports significantly rise when a university is being audited for possible Clery Act violations but drop back down after the investigation is complete.

Colleges and universities are likely to underreport or downplay the number of sex crimes on campus unless under federal scrutiny, according to a new study published in the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law.

The study, which looked at four-year schools with at least 10,000 students between the years of 2001 and 2012, found that when the Department of Education audits schools for possible Clery Act violations, sexual assault reports rise by approximately 44%. After the audit, reporting rates fall back to pre-audit levels, the New York Times reports.

The increase could not be attributed to more victims self-reporting during an audit, because unlike Title IX investigations, Clery Act audits are rarely publicized. The study suggested that universities either overcount during audits due to fear of reprimand, or undercount assaults when they think they can get away with it.

In addition, the study tracked other crimes like aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. Those crimes did not increase during federal audits, Science Daily reports.

Under the Clery Act, colleges could face fines up to $35,000 per violation of crime reporting requirements. A bill introduced last year in Congress called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, would raise maximum fines to $150,000 per violation and create a public database of campus sexual assaults from information provided by student surveys.

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