Institutional Failure, Campus Sexual Assault and Danger in the Dorms: Regulatory Limits and the Promise of Tort Law

39 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2017 Last revised: 20 Apr 2017

Andrea Anne Curcio

Georgia State University - College of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2017


Data demonstrates the majority of on-campus sexual assaults occur in dorm rooms. At many colleges, this fact receives little, if any, attention. This article discusses how schools' failure to raise awareness about, and develop risk reduction programs for, dorm-based assaults is another example of long-standing institutional failures when it comes to addressing campus sexual assault. Ignoring where most on-campus assaults occur provides students with a false sense of security in their dorms, limits the efficacy of bystander intervention programs, and results in scant attention and research directed at the efficacy of dorm-based awareness and risk-reduction efforts. This article suggests that just as Title IX claims have forced colleges to deal with how they handle sexual assault reports, negligence claims may motivate schools to address the issue of dorm-based assaults.

This article proposes framing claims against colleges for dorm-based campus sexual assault in a way that shifts the narrative from that of a few "bad boys" to one of institutional failure - a failure illustrated by schools' turning a blind eye to what is happening in their dorms. The article explores how this framing supports conceptualizing schools' duty to dorm residents based upon schools' superior knowledge about where the majority of assaults occur and their ability to exercise control over student living space. It suggests that tort negligence claims will bring attention to dorm-based assaults, and while certainly not solving the multi-faceted campus sexual assault problem, the threat of these claims may result in the development of additional effective campus sexual assault risk reduction efforts.

Keywords: Sexual Assault, Campus Sexual Assault, Dorms, Tort Claims, Tort, University, Dorm-Based Sexual Assault

JEL Classification: I23, K13, K30, K42, K49

Suggested Citation

Curcio, Andrea Anne, Institutional Failure, Campus Sexual Assault and Danger in the Dorms: Regulatory Limits and the Promise of Tort Law (April 1, 2017). Montana Law Review, Vol. 78, pp. 31-70, (2017); Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-04. Available at SSRN:

Andrea Anne Curcio (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

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