NCD Letter to DOJ Office of Justice Programs

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June 22, 2022

Amy L. Solomon
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20531

Re:   Sexual Assault on College Campuses      

Dear Ms. Solomon:

I write on behalf of the National Council on Disability (“NCD”), an independent, nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to the President, Congress and federal agencies on matters affecting the lives of people with disabilities, to share NCD’s 2018 report, Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities,[1] and share our recommendations for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). NCD is renewing our focus on this issue due to its impact on students with disabilities and in light of a recent article published by the American Psychological Association which refers to sexual assault on college campuses as a ‘crisis,’ but like so many other articles on this topic, leaves out students with disabilities in its description of impacted groups.[2]

NCD became concerned about this issue after the 2015 publication of a large-scale study on campus sexual assault that revealed that students with disabilities were more likely than students without disabilities to experience sexual assault: 31.6 percent of undergraduate females with disabilities reported nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation, compared to 18.4 percent of undergraduate females without a disability.[3] This means one out of every three undergraduate students with a disability who participated was a victim of sexual violence on campus. NCD’s found, however, that that students with disabilities were not visible in federal research and grant programs on campus sexual assault. For example, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) College Sexual Assault Study (CSA)[4] examined the prevalence, nature, and reporting of sexual assault experienced by students and found that 19.8 percent of female college seniors (“1 in 5”) responded that they had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact involving force or incapacitation during their time in college. This study, however, did not include disability as a demographic. Also, BJS’ 2016 Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (CCSVS,)[5] funded by OVW, tested a campus climate survey on sexual assault at nine colleges, but did not include disability as a demographic as it did race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

NCD’s report recommended that BJS include students with disabilities as a demographic when conducting research on sexual assault on college campuses and that OVW require researchers to include students with disabilities as a demographic when it funds research on sexual assault.

Additionally, we recommended that OVW:

  • Include information on disability, including communicating with victims with disabilities who are Deaf or hard of hearing, in its trauma-informed training programs for school officials and campus and local law enforcement.
  • Require all colleges that submit proposals under the Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking on Campus Program to require grantees that provide outreach and educational materials regarding sexual assault services to students, to provide them in accessible formats and inform the college community that these are available.

We took note of and commend OVW for its efforts to include students with disabilities in its work. Notably in late 2019, OVW began a grant program to end violence against women with disabilities on college campuses that has continued through 2022. OVW also includes disability as a demographic in data collection.

We are not aware of any studies currently in development by NIJ or BJS on campus sexual assault. However, we recommend that in all future surveys or studies on campus sexual assault NIJ and BJS include disability as demographic so that we can better understand the scope of this problem. We also continue to recommend that OVW include information on disability in its trauma-informed training programs for school officials and campus and local law enforcement. Colleges need to be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations needed by students with disabilities who experience a sexual assault, e.g., starting at the reporting stage, students may need sign language interpreters or other methods of effective communication, accessible facilities, and may need reasonable accommodations throughout the school’s judicial process. Campus security, counseling, and Title IX staff all need training and campuses should have a response plan in place that is inclusive of all students.

Thank you for your attention to this issue and for the Office of Justice Program’s existing efforts to address campus sexual assault. We would appreciate a meeting with you in the immediate future to discuss this letter and our report. Ana Torres-Davis, NCD Senior Attorney Advisor, is available to assist your staff in arranging a meeting. Ms. Torres-Davis can be reached at atorresdavis@ncd.gov.

Sincerely,

Andrés J. Gallegos
Chairman

 




[2] American Psychological Association. Monitor on Psychology: A crisis of campus sexual assault (April 1, 2022).

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/04/news-campus-sexual-assault

[3] David Cantor et al., Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct (University of Pennsylvania, 2015).

[4] Christopher Krebs et al., The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study: Final Report (Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, 2007).

[5] Christopher Krebs et al., Campus Climate Survey Validation Study Final Technical Report (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. January 20, 2016).