UPDATE: McCaskill staff surveying colleges on assaults

Friday, March 21, 2014 | 7:59 a.m. CDT; updated 3:56 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 21, 2014

KANSAS CITY — Sen. Claire McCaskill said her staff has been surveying colleges nationwide to see what protections against sexual attacks are in place and how the schools support assault victims.

McCaskill, a Democrat, said Thursday that making college campuses safer for women could entail tying federal funding for colleges and universities to how well those institutions report rapes and deliver certain services to female students, The Kansas City Star reported.

"It's never a good idea to minimize this problem because you're worried how it might look," McCaskill said. "We'll look to see if we should require, in return for federal funds, some kind of minimal reporting standards and minimal services available."

A January report by the White House Council on Women and Girls found that one in five women will suffer sexual assault while in college.

McCaskill ushered a bill through the Senate this month that looks to rework the prosecution of sexual assault cases in the military. She said she wants to shine more attention on what colleges do to protect their students against sexual attacks.

"Hopefully, legislation won't be necessary," the senator said. "Hopefully, we can do this through a large national effort."

After her staff completes its research, McCaskill said she plans to gather college presidents, the American Association of University Women and others in higher education to create a consensus for reforms.

University of Central Missouri police chief Kim Vansell said the Warrensburg school recently increased its "effort looking at how we handle victims who report, how we handle offenders and our process."

"I welcome anyone looking at the process," Vansell said. "Are we doing things effectively? Are we doing the right thing for campus safety, and is it the right thing for the victim?"

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