Center and NPR win RFK journalism award for campus assault project

The Center for Public Integrity and NPR have received a prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for the story “Seeking Justice for Campus Rapes.”  

The Center’s 12-month investigation with NPR showed that students who have been the victim of sexual assaults on campus face a depressing array of barriers that often assure their silence or leave them feeling victimized a second time. Meanwhile, students found responsible for alleged sexual assaults on campuses can face little or no punishment and go on to graduate, as colleges and universities ignore the problem.

“This was a meaningful and powerful investigation,” said Center Executive Director William E. Buzenberg. “The Center for Public Integrity is delighted to have collaborated with an excellent team from NPR in exposing a deeply troubling fact of life on too many campuses across the country. We know that as many as 50 million Americans read, saw or heard these compelling stories.”  

The NPR series was reported by correspondent Joseph Shapiro, who worked in collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity’s lead project reporter, Kristen Lombardi. NPR’s investigative team included Robert Benincasa and Susanne Reber; the Center’s team included Gordon Witkin, David Donald, and Kristin Jones.

“I’m pleased the story has had such a clear impact on public policy,” said Lombardi.  “It spurred congressional action on Capitol Hill and led the U.S. Department of Education to strengthen its oversight of how colleges and universities handle campus rape cases.”

The award is conferred by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. “The winners this year reflect the interests of Robert Kennedy, particularly in justice and the plight of the downtrodden,” said Margaret Engle, chair of the RFK Journalism Committee. “From obvious places of misery, including Haiti and Afghanistan, to the still-sensitive issue of campus rapes and their unseen collateral damage, the winning journalists put their talents to use on behalf of people endangered by violence and destruction.”

“NPR and CPI were able to tell this story in a compelling way, because of the women who were willing to share their painful stories,” said NPR’s Shapiro.

The Center also worked closely on related stories with partners in the Investigative News Network: Investigate West, New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, Texas Watchdog and Wisconsin Watch.

The campus assault story also won a Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma and it placed second for the Philip Meyer Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. It won an SPJ award last year.