Students Turn to Feds for Action on Alleged Rapes


More than 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported, according to a 2000 U.S. Department of Justice study. But students and advocates across the country say some rapes are buried or misreported by colleges, which must account for all confirmed incidents under federal law.

Under the Clery Act, which requires colleges to make public their crime statistics, USC reported just seven "forcible sex offenses" in 2011 on its main campus, a fraction of the number of alleged attacks students say they brought to the attention of campus authorities.

USC officials said students accused of rape had been expelled from the college in the past, but would not confirm the number of expulsions, citing privacy concerns.

Read USC's statement regarding the federal investigation.

In May, Yale University was fined $165,000 -- one student's admission costs for three years of college -- for violating the Clery Act and underreporting sexual assaults. The fine was for attacks that took place a decade ago, and the school says it has since improved its reporting.

That same month, while their classmates hunkered down to prepare for finals, a group of USC seniors met in Reed's off-campus apartment to draft their complaint to the Department of Education.

Reed had gone public with her case several months earlier, making public her name and her attacker's name in a blog. The blog also included the transcripts of four audio recordings she provided to college adjudicators, in which she claimed her alleged attacker confessed to the assault.

Local police did not pursue Reed's case, citing insufficient evidence. LAPD confirmed it had investigated but would not comment on the details of the case.

Reed said the school's Student Judicial Affairs and Standards Committee, which adjudicates violations from plagiarism to rape, assigned two faculty members to hear her case.

The panel told her that despite submitting the taped confessions, her case did not "meet the preponderance of evidence threshold" and her attacker would not be expelled because the school's mission was to be "educative and not punitive," she said.

The blog went viral and dozens of students reached out to Reed with their own stories.

One of those students was Alexa Schwartz, 21, who said she was raped in 2010. The two founded a campus group, the Student Coalition Against Rape, and collected the stories of other victims.

A group of five students met to draft the complaint.

"During finals week, we spent way more time on the complaint than on finals. We stayed up all night writing and talking," Schwartz said.

The students did not have the help of lawyers, but were guided by students from the University of North Carolina and a professor at Occidental College who had filed their own Title IX complaints.

"There's a chain, a national network fueled by social media of students reaching out and telling each other how to do this," said Danielle Dirks, a sociology professor at Occidental who organized students there to file a federal complaint but was not herself a victim.

Dirks has since advised students at the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, who, she says, also are planning to file soon.

Dirks said a Facebook page for people looking for advice on filing Title IX complaints now has more than 700 members and she is creating a non-profit organization to help others, creating templates and explaining how to file.

Dirks said the colleges, even private schools, receive millions of dollars annually from the federal government and will likely cooperate with any investigation, rather than risk funding.

"We matter and the school shouldn't treat us like we don't matter," said Reed, when asked what she still wants now that her alleged rapist has graduated and been cleared criminally.

"Too many girls become suicidal and are treated with suspicion after opening up. The hope is what happened to me won't happen to anyone else," Reed said. "It just can't."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained a copies of the complaint filed with the Department of Education and a letter from the Office of Civil Rights, provided to ABC News by the complaintants. In an effort to guarantee niether the names of the accused nor the alleged victims were included, the documents were removed from the website.

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