Senate Will Review Laws Covering Sexual Assault on Campus

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 17 2014 4:10 PM

With Military Sexual Assault Reforms Sent to House, Senate Will Review Laws Covering Rape on Campus

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Senator McCaskill.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the same week that the New York Times published an unsettling piece about the botched investigation of sexual assault allegations against star Florida State football player Jameis Winston, Senator Claire McCaskill is launching an investigation of sexual-assault policies at 350 colleges and universities nationwide—one that comes on the heels of a similar and thusfar-successful effort to reform the military's approach to prosecuting and preventing sexual violence.

McCaskill's initial aim via the 18-page survey is to find out exactly what colleges and universities throughout the country do (or don’t do) in response to reports of rape and sexual assault. The issue of what constitutes an acceptable response in such situations has been a topic of special scrutiny in recent years after a 2011 Obama administration "Dear Colleague" letter to institutions of higher learning prompted many of them to re-assess their policies. But as a legislator, of course, McCaskill has the ability to change, rather than just enforce, current laws. The Senate passed her package of reforms to the military's policies in March; it's now pending before the House.

Kelly Tunney is a Slate intern in New York City.