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University of Tennessee now among schools under sexual assault investigation

The Office of Civil Rights is investigating the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where at least six athletes have been accused of sexual assault in the last year.

Betsy Blaney/AP/File
In this Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, Texas Tech freshman Regan Elder helps drape a bed sheet with the message "No Means No" over the university's seal at the Lubbock, Texas campus to protest what students say is a "rape culture" on campus. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville recently became one of over 100 universities being investigated for Title IX compliance regarding the treatment of sexual misconduct.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is under federal investigation for its handling of sexual violence, The Tennesseean reported.

The US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights launched its investigation on June 29 following an individual’s complaint about the university’s response to a sexual assault claim.

At least six athletes on the university’s football team have been accused of sexual assault, according to the Nashville based paper.

University officials told The Tennessean they were in the process of collecting the information the Office of Civil Rights requested for the investigation.

“While privacy laws prevent the university from disclosing the details of the complaint, I can assure you we will cooperate fully with OCR as it investigates the complaint,” Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in an email to the campus community.

Campus sexual assault has been a topic of extensive conversation and legislation in recent years. The film "The Hunting Ground" released earlier this year criticized university administrations’ approach to handling sexual assault, and a highly publicized but ultimately discounted case of rape at the University of Virginia brought national attention to the subject last fall.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Stacy Teicher Khadaroo wrote about a Brown University study on campus sexual assault released in May:

Between the start of their freshman and sophomore years, nearly 19 percent of the women who studied at a university in the Northeast said they experienced attempted rape or rape through physical force or while they were incapacitated. Between the age of 14 and the beginning of their sophomore year of college, 37 percent said they had undergone such experiences.

The women who experienced incapacitated rape before college were six times more likely to experience that again in college and four times more likely to be forcibly raped than women who had not been previously raped while incapacitated.

The federal government is currently investigating university compliance with Title IX in response to sexual misconduct at institutions across the country. An official told The Tennessean that 121 institutions are currently under investigation.

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