WASHINGTON — Reported sexual assault on college campuses soared by 50 percent in the last decade, according to a U.S. Department of Education report Tuesday.
The Education Department finding does not necessarily indicate a higher frequency of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Rather the report, similar to that which came out last month about a higher number of reported sexual assaults in the military, highlights what is most likely a cultural shift, in which telling authority figures about these incidents is more widely accepted.
While campus crime in all other categories included in the report decreased, the spike in sexual misconduct includes data from up to 2011, when there were 3,300 reports, compared to 2001 when there 2,200.
The report follows a year in which student activists on college campuses across the country have vocally opposed their administration’s handling of sexual assault cases. At several commencement ceremonies this year, students wore red tape on their graduation caps to demonstrate support for victims of sexual assault.
Following a number of highly publicized campus sexual assaults this year, President Barack Obama created a White House task force on campus rape. In April, the task force released its first report and unveiled guidelines for a new system of reporting on-campus sexual assault.
In May, the Education Department revealed a list of 55 universities currently under investigation for potential Title IX violations in their handling of sexual assault cases.
Tufts University came under fire in April when the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights found the Medford, Mass., school in violation of Title IX, the federal law that bans gender discrimination on college campuses. The university has since submitted revisions to its sexual assault policy to the civil rights office, which is still reviewing the changes.
A few weeks later, the office announced that Virginia Military Institute had also broken federal law. The two parties entered into a resolution agreement to resolve the issues.