Clery Act Numbers
Newly updated data required by the Clery Act indicate that the annual statistics collected by colleges and universities still do not tell the full story of sexual violence on campus. Many studies have found that around 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault while they are college students, but less well known is that more than one in five college women experiences physical abuse, sexual abuse, or threats of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. AAUW’s analysis of the 2015 Clery data revealed the following:
- Eighty-nine percent of college campuses disclosed zero reported incidences of rape in 2015. With about 11,000 campuses providing annual crime data, an overwhelming majority of schools certified that in 2015 they did not receive a single report of rape.
- For the second year, we have access to new data regarding dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking incidents on campuses nationwide. For 2015 about 9 percent of campuses disclosed a reported incident of domestic violence, around 10 percent disclosed a reported incident of dating violence, and about 13 percent of campuses disclosed a reported incident of stalking. So in each of these categories as well, most campuses did not disclose any reported incidents in 2015.
- Among the main or primary campuses of colleges and universities with an enrollment of at least 250 students, 73 percent disclosed zero rape reports in 2015.
- The 2015 numbers show that campuses that reported one type of sexual violence often disclosed reports of other types. This suggests that some schools have built the necessary systems to welcome and handle reports, support survivors, and disclose accurate statistics — and others have not.
About the Clery Act Data
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to disclose campus crime statistics and security information, including training and prevention efforts. Every school must annually collect and report this information to the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2013, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and it included amendments to the Clery Act to address sexual violence. In addition to already collected data on rape, schools are now required to report on domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
Why Are the Clery Act Numbers Important?
When campus environments are hostile because of sexual harassment, assault, or violence, students cannot learn — and their right to an education free of sex discrimination is at risk. AAUW research revealed that two-thirds of college students experienced sexual harassment and nearly half of students in grades 7–12 faced it. Getting correct numbers in the annual Clery Act data collection matters because it helps policymakers understand one aspect of the scope of the problem, it helps college administrators allocate resources to improve prevention and response, and it is an important reflection that survivors — and their assaults — were counted.
What Does Clery Numbers Tell Us?
Schools that report zero rapes to have work to do and require additional scrutiny. When campuses disclose zero reports of rape, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, it simply does not square with research, campus climate surveys, and widespread experiences reported by students. Following several years of increased attention to campus sexual violence — such as the 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the U.S. Department of Education regarding Title IX and sexual violence, the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and the 2014 White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault — schools have been put on notice as well as given the tools to improve their support systems, policies, and procedures to respond to sexual violence on campus. The 2015 Clery Act data reveal that far too many schools have not risen to the challenge — and are out of step with the letter of the law.
How to Use the 2015 Clery Data
There are several ways to identify and analyze the 2015 data using the Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.
To view an individual school’s Clery Act numbers, use the feature to “Get data for one institution/campus.” To see aggregate national numbers, use the “generate trend data” function, or download the data in a spreadsheet using “download data.”
This particular AAUW analysis draws from the 2015 data. Prior year data is available, though only back to 2014 for dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. In addition to the Department of Education’s tool, every school’s individual annual security report should report this information, as well as details about the school’s sexual violence training and prevention programs.
Data files include all data submitted through the Campus Safety and Security Survey during the selected collection year. Each annual survey collects data for the previous three calendar years, which allows institutions to correct previously submitted data in a subsequent collection year. Data files are created immediately following each data collection and therefore do not include any corrections made following the close of the selected collection year.
- Because schools only disclose reported incidents in the annual Clery Act collection, the extraordinarily high number of zeros suggests some students continue to feel uncomfortable coming forward to report such incidents at some schools. This should be a cause for concern for colleges and universities. Schools must take an honest look at their processes: Do they facilitate accurate data collection, welcome reporting, provide resources and training to support survivors, and disclose statistics correctly? If not, reforms must be made.
- Schools must develop policies, procedures, and campus-wide training to ensure proper handling of sexual violence, and these actions must be outlined in their annual security reports. Smart schools will also include students, faculty, staff, and community partners in their efforts. Schools do not have to do this alone — informational resources are available at changingourcampus.org.
- Colleges and universities should consider conducting climate and victimization surveys. When done well, surveys are critical tools for schools to better document both reported and unreported incidents of sexual violence, understand why survivors are not reporting, and assess administrative and cultural issues on campus that undermine reporting. A recent assessment of colleges and universities that do conduct climate surveys that ask about the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence found that schools use the results to inform prevention programming, responses, and students support services.
- Developing prevention programming that’s effective requires understanding the full scope of the problem — something that the Clery Act data collection helps schools to do. Schools that do not collect and report this data dutifully and accurately are missing out on one of their best prevention tools.
- Congress and the Trump administration must continue to fund and support the U.S. Department of Education’s Clery compliance efforts and the Office for Civil Rights. Where schools are not following the letter of the law it is critical for students to have a backstop in the U.S. Department of Education. The agency can provide technical assistance to schools and help them correct when they are out of step with current requirements. The Trump administration and the Department of Education should also leave in place current guidance and regulations on this topic, which schools are working diligently to follow.