Despite a long history of reform efforts, college students remain vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault on campus. This essay surveys that history from the 1970s to the present, including a flurry of enforcement activity under President Obama and a backlash and reversed course under Trump. Many of the systems – for example law, education, and public health – designed to ameliorate the epidemic of campus sexual assault have failed to do so. These failures have been particularly pronounced for victims who experience multiple intersecting inequalities. The resulting frustration with legal remedies through campus Title IX processes and the criminal and civil justice system has spurred a new interest in strategies to prevent sexual assault. Recent political developments, including the #MeToo movement, suggest a potential for democratic political accountability to make progress where legal reform efforts and campus prevention programming have thus far been unsuccessful.

Landis Dauber, Michele and Warner, Meghan, Legal and Political Responses to Campus Sexual Assault (May 29, 2019). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 15, October 2019, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3396165

Michele Landis Dauber

Stanford Law School

Michele Landis Dauber is a law professor and a sociologist at Stanford Law School. She has written highly original historical and sociological studies focusing on the history of social provision and the US welfare state. Her first book, The Sympathetic State (2013 University of Chicago Press) received numerous distinguished book awards and prizes including from the American Historical Association, the American Sociological Association, the American Political Science Association, the American Society for Legal History, and the Law and Society Association.

Meghan Warner

Stanford University, Department of Sociology

Meghan Warner is a PhD student at Stanford University in the Department of Sociology.


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