Sen. McCaskill sees similarities in college, military sexual assaults

There are “a lot of similarities” in the way that sexual assault is dealt with on college campuses and in the military, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on Sunday.

The senator, whose bill to boost protections for soldiers was unanimously passed by the Senate earlier this year, went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to talk up a new survey about how colleges are responding to the assaults.

“I see a lot of similarities on college campuses in terms of a closed cultural environment where victims are so worried about how they're going to be viewed if they come out of the shadows,” she said.

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“So I think the first step is to look at how college campuses are dealing with this now. ... Then, we'll take the next steps, which would be stakeholder roundtables, hearings and then, ultimately, legislation.”

McCaskill said jurisdictional squabbling between school and local police can complicate the issue, and victims of the assaults can often be afraid to come forward with their charges.

“I think many times young students second-guess themselves,” she said. “ ‘Oh, did I drink too much?’ ‘I shouldn't have gone to his room.’ ‘I didn't know him well enough.’ And they do a self-blame.”

The new survey and resulting legislative action, she said, could help identify ways for schools to better serve their students. And if they don’t get on board, she threatened to withhold federal money or take other steps.

“But we've got to make sure that we have the right systems in place and processes in place, and then we can go after really strict enforcement,” she said. “And hopefully, increase the number of prosecutions of these perpetrators that are preying on young women.”