Sexual assault on college campuses: A 50-state survey of criminal sexual assault statutes and their relevance to campus sexual assault

  • DeMatteo D
  • Galloway M
  • Arnold S
 et al. 
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Abstract

A recent series of highly publicized campus sexual assaults and the questionable responses by the academic institutions where they occurred has led some policymakers and academic administrators to call for legislative and institutional change. For such changes to be effective, academic administrators and legislators need solutions that effectively protect victims, punish perpetrators, and encourage institutional compliance with relevant legislation. Furthermore, there has been significant debate about how much the criminal justice system can and should be involved when sexual assaults occur on college campuses. To address these questions, there needs to be a more thorough understanding of existing state sexual assault laws and their capacity to handle sexual assaults that occur on college campuses. This project identified and systematically examined all U.S. state statutes relating to sexual assault to evaluate to what extent these laws are appropriate and accessible for victims of campus sexual assault. Results revealed that all 50 states have at least 1 criminal statute addressing sexual assault, with a total of 432 statutory subsections being identified for inclusion. Across statutes, key concepts relating to consent and incapacity were often ill defined or undefined, and many of the statutes appear to be poorly suited to handling campus sexual assaults. These findings have implications for the adjudication of campus sexual assaults, and such results can potentially be used to amend existing legislation and inform future legislation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Clery act
  • College
  • Sexual assault
  • Statutory survey
  • Title IX

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