Despite media coverage and political debate, sexual assault on college campuses continues to affect the lives of thousands of young women each year. Laws exist that allow survivors to file civil lawsuits against universities and colleges for sexual assault; however, many survivors may not know their rights or may fear backlash for speaking out. Worse, many institutions may try to dismiss or cover up assaults. In some cases, schools may pressure survivors to remain silent. However, at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., our attorneys are committed to helping survivors make their voices heard by exercising their legal rights.
If you or someone you know was sexually assaulted on a college campus, then contact our lawyers today. We offer confidential consultations, free of charge, so that you can get answers to your legal questions.
When Are Colleges Liable for Sexual Assaults?
Colleges and universities are responsible for taking reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students. This includes protecting students from sexual assault. However, many schools ignore warning signs or complaints from students, allowing the risk of sexual assault to persist. Colleges may be liable for sexual assaults that occur in locations or at events like:
- Main campus. Schools must provide proper security on all school-owned property. This includes educational buildings, parking lots, campus stores, dining halls, faculty buildings, chapels, libraries, tech centers and more.
- Dormitories. College dormitories must have security measures and safety policies in place to prevent sexual assault.
- Fraternity houses and sorority houses. Colleges are responsible for ensuring that frats and sororities follow all school policies. For example, if a university knows that a fraternity frequently hosts parties that encourage underage drinking and takes no action, then the school may be liable for any assaults that occur at such an event.
- Off-campus buildings. Large universities may have multiple off-campus buildings and locations; the school may still be liable for assaults that occur in these areas.
- Off-campus school-sponsored events. These may include sporting events, competitions, school trips and more.
- Spring break programs. Many universities sponsor spring break programs for high schoolers. If a program participant is sexually assaulted, then the university may be liable, especially if a faculty member was involved.
- Exchange programs. Depending on the circumstances, universities may be liable for assaults that occur in other locations, even other countries, as part of an exchange program.
If you were sexually assaulted on a college campus or at a university event, then ask yourself: could the school have known this could happen? If so, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the school. A qualified attorney can help you investigate to find a clear answer.
What Laws Apply to Sexual Assault on College Campuses?
According to RAINN, college-age women are at a three to four times elevated risk of sexual assault. Additionally, approximately 23 percent of undergraduate females will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. These are staggering statistics. Still, many colleges and universities willfully turn a blind eye to reports of assault. In some cases, faculty may even pressure survivors to stay silent to protect the school’s reputation.
However, federal laws like the Clery Act and its various amendments require universities and colleges to formulate and enforce safety policies. Colleges must also report crimes, including sexual assault, that occur on campus or on school-owned property. Additionally, other locations like fraternity and sorority houses, remote classroom and offsite university buildings count as part of the campus. This Act also requires colleges to inform students of known risks and dangers.
Schools must also have a reporting procedure in place as well as programs for sexual violence prevention. As part of this requirement, colleges must have clear procedures for investigation and disciplinary actions.
Despite these laws, many colleges fail to provide information and reporting options to students. Additionally, many survivors find that, even if they report an assault to the institution, the university may doubt their accounts or refuse to investigate. Faced with this pushback, many fear backlash and do not pursue further action. However, it is your right to consult with a sexual assault attorney who can gather evidence and fight to hold negligent schools accountable.
Call Our Pennsylvania Campus Sexual Assault Attorneys Now
If you have questions or need help, contact our college sexual assault lawyers today. We advocate for survivors and can help you fight to hold negligent schools accountable. Call (215) 600-0104 or contact us online today to schedule a free initial consultation.