Sexual assault continues to be a prevalent issue in schools because administrators are often unsure of how to appropriately handle these situations.

In January 2012, a 14-year-old girl in Missouri was allegedly assaulted by a well-known high school football player in her town after going out with friends, states U.S. News. Although the sexual assault had a severe emotional impact on the girl, she was suspended from the cheerleading team after it happened and was harassed by fellow students online and in-person. The girl was also not allowed to attend prom at her new school and has been hospitalized several times for eating disorders and harming herself since the assault occurred.

Sexual abuse in schools is prevalent

Like this teenage girl, many students are sexually abused by other students, their teachers and school staff members. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, girls who are between 14 and 17 years of age have been victimized through sexual abuse or attempted sexual assault at a rate of one in five. The data was collected through a national survey that asked children if they had been victimized by another child or teen, a stranger, an adult acquaintance or through online solicitation.

Additionally, according to EdSource, sexual abuse or misconduct by school personnel has affected about 9.6 percent of students in the U.S. In many situations, staff members and teachers are hired by school districts that are unaware that these professionals have been accused of sexual misconduct with students in other states and school districts. For this reason, and because school officials are not always fully trained on how to detect the signs of sexual misconduct, the early signs of sexual abuse often go unnoticed by school employees.

Why sexual assault persists

There are many different reasons why middle schools and high schools may be unable to prevent the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse on their campuses. For example, according to U.S. News, secondary educators may not know how to handle allegations of one student sexually assaulting another. However, under Title IX and the Missouri Human Rights Act, schools are required to respond quickly and adequately to allegations of sexual assault. They must do this so that they can prevent sexual assault from re-occurring and address the effects that it can have on students.

Once accusations of sexual assault are made, victims may face continual harassment from their peers. In some situations, U.S. News states that this harassment can be even worse than the actual assault. For this reason, victims of sexual assault may be hesitant to report the situation.

Under Title IX and the Missouri Human Rights Act, not only are schools required to respond to sexual abuse allegations appropriately, but they must also make arrangements for students who make sexual assault complaints against one of their peers or teachers. Schools must make sure that the victim:

  • Can still go to school
  • Is protected from another abusive situation
  • Does not have to be near his or her attacker

While these solutions cannot undo the damage caused by a sexually abusive situation, victims in Missouri may be able to hold their attacker, administrators, and the school responsible for the situation through certain legal actions like the Missouri Human Rights Act. If you or one of your loved ones was sexually assaulted, speak with an attorney to determine what legal steps should be taken next

Keywords: sexual assault, sex crime, victim