The issue of sexual assaults on college campuses has shown up in headlines across the country for most of this year, with 85 institutions currently awaiting federal investigations.
Last month, USF was added to the list of universities pending investigation of alleged Title IX violations, a list that has grown by 50 percent since the Department of Education began disclosing the specific cases in May, according to the Washington Post.
On Sept. 3, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights started a Title IX sexual violence investigation involving USF. Title IX was passed in 1972 to require schools that receive federal funding to provide equal opportunity and prevent sexual harassment and sexual violence.
“In the matter resulting in this complaint, the university promptly began an investigation upon receiving notice of the incident,” said USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman in an emailed statement to The Oracle. “The alleged victim received information about rights under Title IX, the investigative process and available resources on and off campus. Those resources include academic assistance, victim advocacy and counseling services. The two individuals involved were acquainted with each other and the university determined the safety of students and the USF community has not been compromised at any time.”
USF’s Title IX Coordinator and Chief Diversity Officer Jose Hernandez deferred comments to Freeman.
While Freeman said the matter is under investigation and no further information could be provided, including what incident sparked the complaint that led to the investigation, University Police (UP) Assistant Chief Chris Daniel said only one case of sexual assault has been reported to his office since July 31.
Daniel said he was unaware of the Title IX investigation and did not know if that sexual assault case was related, but did say it was reported to his office Sept. 17. The incident allegedly occurred in Eta Hall on Sept. 1 and involved two acquainted students: a female victim and a male suspect. Daniel said a friend of the victim who heard about the incident but was not involved reported the case to UP.
According to UP’s annual security report, six rapes and one incident of fondling were reported in 2013, seven cases of rape were reported in 2012 and one was reported in 2011. Nine forcible sex offenses were reported in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education’s website.
“USF strives to be a campus that leads the way in promoting a culture where sexual violence is a rare occurrence and simply not tolerated,” Freeman wrote to The Oracle. “We also are working to create an atmosphere where students are empowered to affect change on this crucial societal problem. The university will remain proactive in ensuring our students have access to the best information, prevention programs and services. We will also continue to review our existing programs and pursue new initiatives consistent with best practices for Title IX compliance.”
At the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to create the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives, with a third of women estimated to have been first raped between the ages of 18 and 24.
Click here to see a full list of universities under investigation for Title IX violations.