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May 2nd, 2014
04:38 AM ET

55 Colleges Under Investigation Over Handling Of Sexual Violence Complaints

Federal investigators are checking whether 55 colleges and universities illegally handled sexual violence and harassment complaints, the U.S. Department of Education said Thursday.

Such investigations have long been known, but this is the first time that the department has released a list of all probes currently under way.

The list includes colleges and universities in 27 states and in the District of Columbia.

"We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," said Catherine E. Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights.

"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue. I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law."

Five schools promptly responded to CNN's request for response. The University of California, Berkeley said it will cooperate with the investigation and added that its chancellor had sent out a letter to campus saying sexual assault would not be tolerated.

"Much has been done to strengthen the campus' handling of these issues, but we understand that there is always room for improvement," the university statement said.

At the same time, reports of sex assault in the U.S. military are up by half, another startling annual figure around a problem the Pentagon believes is still under-reported.

But the Defense Department said the sharp year-over-year increase for fiscal 2013 largely reflected steps to encourage more people to come forward if they've been assaulted.

And Pentagon leaders acknowledged they've still got a long way to go, and have put special emphasis on getting male victims to file claims.

"The best way to combat this crime is to prevent it," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said after his department released the latest figures in a report.

We'll have the latest on both issues on "Early Start."

What do you think can be done to change this culture of sexual violence?

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