Skip to main content

Acting Assistant Attorney General
for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary Speaks at the
Clery Center for Security on Campus


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Alison. I’m very pleased to be here – and delighted to help celebrate the Clery Center for Security on Campus’s 25th anniversary. Let me also express my support for the Center’s new name, which honors both the vital mission of the Center and the memory of the young woman who inspired its creation.

To that end, I want to say how much I appreciate and admire the tremendous leadership that Connie Clery continues to provide. Her passion and advocacy – and that of her late husband, Howard – gave life to the campus security movement, and their work remains a touchstone of campus safety today.

Let me also congratulate Officer Jacobs and Officer Campbell, whose award is well-deserved. And finally, my thanks to Alison and the Board and staff of the Clery Center for their leadership and for working so hard to keep the issue of campus security prominent on our nation’s public safety agenda.

When we think about the history of the campus safety movement and the important accomplishments of the Clery Center over the last 25 years, I think that perhaps the greatest achievement is the change in culture the Center has done so much to promote. There was a time when we didn’t talk about campus violence. We took for granted that our institutions of higher education were peaceful havens for learning. Meanwhile, victims were left to suffer in silence.

That changed significantly with the passage of the Clery Act. That landmark piece of legislation brought transparency to the issue of campus security and helped university officials understand the importance of disclosing crimes and security risks. Thanks to the Clery Act – and to the education and awareness the Clery Center has provided over the years – colleges and universities now are much more focused on solving a problem than on admitting one exists.

Campus crime victims are now more likely to get the attention and the services they need. But we’re far from meeting all our challenges. Crime and violence continue to be a reality for too many students – in some cases, as in the recent death of Alexandra Kogut, a tragic reality.

One challenge in particular stands out: the problem of sexual assault. Several studies sponsored by our National Institute of Justice indicate that between 14 and 30 percent of college students experience some type of sexual violence during their college careers. In one study, close to 12 percent reported being a victim of forcible rape. And current research suggests that a vast majority of campus sexual assaults – as many as 85 to 90 percent – are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. Often, alcohol is involved. These factors help explain why only a fraction of rapes of college students are reported – victims feel they bear some responsibility.

But sometimes victims don’t report because they simply don’t know how, or because they think they’ll be poorly treated by the police or other parts of the system. As long as this fear of reporting prevails, we have more to do.

Several years ago, our National Institute of Justice issued a report setting forth a number of recommendations for schools on how to deal with this issue. Number one – and somewhat obviously – it said they should make sure adequate services are available. It also recommended they have written response protocols, and that they provide prevention education to the general student population. Awareness is as much a part of the solution as services.

We’ve been working with our friends at the Office on Violence Against Women to make sure we have systems in place to address campus sexual violence. Several years ago, our Office for Victims of Crime funded the Clery Center to develop a training curriculum for university administrators and law enforcement executives about the requirements of the Clery Act. The Center continues to deliver the training throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the Office on Violence Against Women continues to provide significant funding under its Campus Program, which helps colleges and universities improve their prevention and response to sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking. Since the program was launched in 1999, $132 million has gone to 360 institutions of higher education. OVW also supported development of standards to guide schools in their efforts to address violence against women on campus. And each year, it convenes two training and technical assistance institutes to provide the latest in research and practice to universities and colleges.

OVW was also part of a forum organized by our Office for Victims of Crime on enhancing criminal investigations of campus sex crimes. OVC brought together federal agencies – the Department of Justice’s COPS Office and the Department of Education, in addition to the Office on Violence Against Women – as well as our partners at the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. The Clery Center was part of this meeting, along with law enforcement officials, campus administration and security personnel, non-profit groups, and federal partners. This was a very productive discussion, and it resulted in a report on promoting effective investigations, which we expect to publish in the next couple of months.

Of course, just as important as the law enforcement response and victim services is prevention – and I’m pleased my agency is playing a role here, as well.

Our Bureau of Justice Assistance supported a review of campus crime prevention efforts. In addition to a national survey of universities on evidence-based crime prevention practices, we held two focus groups to discuss where to focus campus crime prevention efforts. A team of researchers is analyzing the survey results and planning the next stages of the project, but I should note that both of the focus groups indicated that addressing sexual assault should be a top priority.

Information gathered from these and other efforts have helped produce useful tools, like a mobile app that provides students and parents access to campus crime statistics and resources on campus safety. This is a terrific tool, given the lack of information about campus crime that students and others have historically had access to. It’s also great news for those of us who work with and support victims. Victim services has long been on the wrong side of the technology gap. We need to find ways to bridge that gap and build a more effective victim service response capacity.

Over the last two years, our Office for Victims of Crime has been leading a major effort to expand this capacity. It’s called Vision 21. The idea behind it is to determine how we can best meet the enduring challenges confronting victim services, as well as the emerging challenges.

OVC’s leadership and staff have met with stakeholders from across the country to talk about what those challenges are and what we need to do, collectively, to meet the needs of victims. We’re in the final stages of a report encapsulating what we’ve found and outlining a strategic vision of what the victim service field should look like going forward.

To offer you a quick preview, the report will reflect the need to institutionalize victim services – to make them part of our criminal justice and human services infrastructure. It will show that policymakers should think strategically about how to link services so we’re ensuring a comprehensive response. It’ll explain that we need more data and research to guide our policy and planning activities. It will emphasize the need to reach every segment of the victims population. And finally, the report will underscore that we must expand our capacity by leveraging tools like mobile apps and other technologies.

Victim services began as a grassroots movement some four decades ago – and much of its effectiveness is rooted in local-level advocacy – but the movement has grown up. It’s now a bona-fide profession, and we need to start treating it as a profession, putting it on a par with law enforcement and other criminal justice disciplines.

The campus safety movement has been integral to this growth, and it will remain central to our progress going forward. Leaders like Connie Clery and organizations like the Clery Center have raised the profile of campus crime victims and made student safety a top priority of our system of higher education. Let’s continue to build on that momentum, working to put systems in place that protect students, help victims, and ensure that our colleges and universities are safe communities for learning and growth.

Thank you for your time and for your commitment – and congratulations again to the Clery Center.

Updated September 17, 2014