Hearings will review colleges' sex assault policies

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WASHINGTON --Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is surveying 350 colleges on their sexual-assault policies, says she is planning to hold hearings later this year when she will call victims, administrators and college presidents to testify.

Colleges, their police forces as well as municipal law enforcement should be summoned to explain why so few campus sexual-assault and rape cases are prosecuted, Ms. McCaskill, D-Mo., a former prosecutor, said in a phone interview.

Students across the nation have filed complaints alleging that their universities have violated Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education, by failing to prevent and respond to sexual assaults. Many administrators may be incorrectly telling female students that they are unlikely to obtain rape convictions in cases where there is a dispute over whether sex was consensual, Ms. McCaskill said.

"I prosecuted a lot of cases where consent was the defense, and there are a lot of ways you can build these cases," she said. "It's rare that you can't find corroborating evidence if you try."

The investigation of Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston for sexual assault last year is one where law enforcement officials may have missed opportunities to determine whether sex was consensual, Ms. McCaskill said. News accounts have said police investigating the case in Tallahassee failed to look at video and interview some potential witnesses.

The U.S. Education Department is reviewing the college's response to the incident. Florida State is one of 40 universities the department's Office for Civil Rights is scrutinizing, said university spokeswoman Browning Brooks. She declined further comment, citing privacy rules.

Sexual-assault cases involving college sports figures may be glossed over by administrators, Ms. McCaskill said.


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