Sexual abuse occurs far too often in the United States and affects people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and gender identities. In fact, it’s so prevalent that an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, and the average annual number of rape and sexual assault victims is more than 463,000. These statistics reveal a disturbing reality of horrific, traumatic crimes.
While the location varies, many sexual assaults occur on college campuses. College is a place that, for many, marks the start of independence and should be a positive experience for young adults and others who attend. But that’s not the case for many students, and while yearly information released by schools lists few reports of assault, it doesn’t reflect reality.
Assault on campus is widely unreported, which limits a school’s ability to support survivors, not to mention hold their attackers accountable. Around 31% of victims report sexual abuse, but this rate is even lower for those that take place on campus: Only approximately one in five college students who are sexually abused report it.
Low reporting rates are often because victims:
- Don’t want to relive it
- Repress memories of the attack
- Fear others won’t believe them
- Disbelieve their attacker will face justice or accountability
- Feel uncertain about whether they were abused
The impact of these highly violating crimes is life-changing; survivors of sex abuse face short- and long-term physical, mental, and emotional struggles. Trouble forming relationships, substance abuse, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression are just some effects of sexual abuse.
At Herman, Herman & Katz, our experienced Louisiana sexual abuse attorneys are dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault at college seek justice. We understand the extreme difficulty and bravery of coming forward, and we work hard to develop safe, supportive, and compassionate relationships with our clients.
Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Louisiana Colleges
Women aged 18-24 are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in general. Enrolment data shows this age group makes up the majority of students, placing them on campus when they’re at the greatest risk of assault.
One factor that contributes to the increased rate of sexual abuse at college is the use of alcohol and drugs; many students are incapacitated when they’re assaulted and unaware of what’s happening or unable to give consent. Peer pressure, specifically feeling pressured into sexual situations victims are uncomfortable with, is another factor.
Like many other institutions, such as the Boy Scouts of America and the Roman Catholic Church, colleges and universities have long since failed those who were sexually abused on campus. Historically, lack of reporting policies – or policies that weren’t followed or enforced – allowed many attackers to avoid any sort of consequence for their crimes. But a new law was introduced in 2021 with the hope of combating what’s become a widespread issue on Louisiana’s campuses.
Senate Bill 230 was created to force change and greater accountability among colleges and universities in Louisiana. The law required schools to create new policies for reporting and responding to sexual harassment, domestic violence, and stalking by January 2022.
The law outlines clear penalties for employees who fail to report these types of power-based abuse (dismissal) and retaliation penalties for students and employees (expulsion and dismissal). It also requires a notation on transcripts of students who were investigated for sexual misconduct, an anonymous reporting system, and educating students about how to make reports.
College Campus Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Louisiana has harsh penalties for perpetrators of sexual abuse. Conviction of first-degree rape can result in life in prison with hard labor and without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Sexual battery, which involves non-consensual sexual activity, can result in up to 10 years in prison with or without hard labor, without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. And yet, the repeated reporting failures across the state have allowed campus assailants to get away with heinous crimes.
At Herman, Herman & Katz, we’ve seen the direct consequences when schools – and sometimes, police – didn’t work together or follow reporting protocols:
- One person abuses multiple students at the same school.
- Multiple attacks by different people were reported, but nothing was done.
- Attackers have switched to different colleges or universities in Louisiana then sexually abused more students.
One notable example of reporting failures occurred at Louisiana State University (LSU). A 2021 investigation into rape and abuse allegations against athletes and a former coach at LSU revealed administrators did nothing to address allegations. Several victims of sexual abuse on campus saw no justice or accountability on behalf of the perpetrators and university.
It took years to discover what happened at LSU. The lack of institutional accountability can cause additional or worsened struggles; victims may feel further silenced, alone, and ashamed. It also builds distrust of authorities and the steps they’ll take to address allegations, as well as increases skepticism about whether they’ll be taken seriously or believed.
While the potential criminal penalties for committing sexual abuse in Louisiana are severe, low conviction rates have further contributed to low reporting rates. At Herman, Herman & Katz, we help survivors of sexual assault through civil lawsuits against their attacker. This legal option provides an opportunity to be heard and compensated and is one way to hold the person who caused them harm accountable.
What Should I Do If I’m Sexually Abused on Campus?
Ideally, whether you’re in immediate danger or not, anyone who is sexually abused on campus – or anywhere else – should call the police. Although traumatizing, providing a statement with as many details as possible can help the police investigation.
In addition, police will involve any relevant emergency services for immediate assistance, such as taking victims of sexual assault to the hospital for examination and treatment. If the attack was recent and the victim consents, the hospital can collect evidence that could be integral in both criminal and civil cases.
Beyond contacting the police, students who are sexually abused on campus should also report the assault to school authorities. Universities and colleges in Louisiana that receive federal funding are required to report claims of sexual abuse and to ensure continued access to education for students who are assaulted. Colleges typically offer a variety of services, including counseling. There are also many state and national organizations, such as the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, that are committed to supporting survivors of sexual abuse with resources and programs.
Legal Options for College Sex Abuse
Being sexually abused at any time or any age is a traumatic experience and a serious crime. Regardless of the type of sexual assault, coming forward is extremely difficult, and with only a small percentage of attackers that see jail time, many stay silent. But there are other legal options available for victims of sexual abuse on campus.
A civil lawsuit may be filed against the perpetrator. At Herman, Herman & Katz, we guide and support survivors with compassion and dedication during the legal process. Our attorneys have successfully helped survivors of sex abuse on campus be compensated for their suffering.
We also handle other types of sex abuse cases, including:
Contact us for a free and confidential consultation.