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Sep 24, 2013 09:47 AM EDT

USC Sexual Assault Victim Proposes Schools Issue Student Survey to See How Well Crime Policies Work

University of Southern California
(Photo : Flickr/CC) USC's journalism graduates earn an average of $41,000 in their starting salary.

One student and victim of sexual assault on her school's campus has come up with a way to get more victims to report the crimes committed against them, the Huffington Post reported.

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Tucker Reed, who has filed two federal complaints against the University of Southern California (USC) for mishandling her sexual assault case, said her solution is a survey. Under her proposal, schools would distribute a mandatory online survey to their seniors to get feedback on what policies work not just for sexual violence, but all crimes.

"It would give the school an opportunity to pinpoint which programs are working and which aren't," Reed. "A school should want to do that; it should want to know whether its programs are working."

The main problem in sexual assaults going unpunished, not just on a college campus, is the victim choosing not to report it. Various studies have suggested between one quarter and one-fifth of college women experience sexual misconduct and less than half report the incident. Under the Clery Act, a federal law, a school has to record and publicize all sexual assault cases every year, but they can only do so if the crime is reported.

Even when sexual crimes are reported, students like USC's Reed and University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill's Landen Gambill still allege their sexual assault was mishandled. These types of federal complaints to the U.S. Education Department's (ED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) have become all too common in higher education.

Schools like Swarthmore College, Occidental College, UNC-Chapel Hill, USC, Yale, University of Colorado-Boulder and others have either been through or are under an OCR investigation.

Reed said a third party, like the ED, should draft the survey with neutral wording. She said the survey would put "directly into the hands of students" the power to report the crimes committed against them.

"Every federally funded college or university should be required to conduct exit surveys of their departing seniors to determine how many were sexually assaulted during their four-year stay," Reed said, "and then these results should be published."

Only one non-military school in the country is mandated by Congress to issues such surveys. The University of Montana is required by the U.S. Department of Justice to issue at least one annual climate survey as result of a previous investigation.

"Those are important sets of data," said Dr. David Lisak, a psychologist who teaches at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. "They do tell an institution, for example, how well they are improving the climate on campus and the level of confidence victims have in reporting."

Several universities do have these surveys, although not mandated. The results of one of these surveys from five years ago at Princeton were recently leaked and the contents were shocking, to say the least.

According to the survey, one in six women on campus experienced "non-consensual vaginal penetration," not an uncommon figure when compared to data from national studies. According to the school's 2008 crime report, from the same year, only 20 forcible sex offenses were reported, accounting for about 1 in 195 women.

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