Universities mishandled sexual assault cases, complaints allege

Story highlights

  • Advocacy group: Sexual assault survivors file complaints with U.S. Department of Education
  • The Title IX complaints allege four universities mishandled sexual assault cases
  • The Department of Education will decide whether to pursue investigation

(CNN)Four women have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education against four universities, alleging the schools mishandled their sexual assault cases.

The women filed the Title IX complaints Tuesday, according to the advocacy group End Rape on Campus. They are sexual assault survivors, the group said.
    The complaints are against American University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Indiana University Bloomington and Monmouth University. Title IX is the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at any education institution that receives federal funding.
    Among the allegations, according to End Rape on Campus, the four universities failed to enforce no-contact orders between the perpetrators and victims, and several survivors faced retaliation from the accused.
    The Department of Education recommends that universities investigate sexual assault allegations within 60 days, but in these cases, all four universities took "significantly longer" to do so.
    "Ultimately, all of the survivors' perpetrators were either found not responsible or were given minimal sanctions, creating a hostile environment for the survivors and severely compromising their educational experiences," the advocacy group said.
    A Title IX sex discrimination violation includes cases where a sexual assault is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit."
    Though they have been submitted, the complaints filed Tuesday are private.
    Department of Education policy is not to confirm the receipt of complaints unless it decides that an investigation is merited.
    "The safety and security of all members of our campus community is a top priority," Monmouth spokeswoman Tara Peters said. "Monmouth University prohibits all forms of sexual misconduct, and we have a rigorous and exhaustive protocol and support process to ensure that all concerns are addressed."
    The University of Alabama at Birmingham said privacy laws prohibit the school from discussing details of a sexual assault investigation.
    "We work with appropriate parties on and off campus to review and ensure an appropriate resolution to any incident, as well as continue initiatives to educate and empower our students, faculty and staff to promote a campus culture that prevents and responds appropriately to sexual assault," the university said.
    American University said that as of Tuesday afternoon, it had not received any new Title IX complaints from the Department of Education. The university noted that it would cooperate with any investigation, should one be merited.
    "AU does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct," American University spokeswoman Camille Lepre said. "The University is committed to stopping discriminatory behavior, preventing its recurrence and remedying its effects, especially through support to the survivor. We strive to investigate complaints prompt and properly."
    Indiana University Bloomington did not immediately comment on the complaints.