Bipartisan Group of Senators Renews Call for Campus Reforms

Members of congress, RAINN staff, and other anti-sexual assault advocates pose behind a podium. The podium holds a sign reading "Pass CASA act."RAINN’s vice president for public policy, Rebecca O’Connor, spoke this week at a Capitol Hill press conference urging swift action on the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), alongside survivor advocates and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Moore Capito (R-WV).

The need for reform in how colleges address sexual violence is pressing: According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported over 6,700 forcible sex offenses (rape and sexual battery) in 2014 – but a recent Department of Justice study shows that the actual number of offenses is estimated to be at least four times that number. “Colleges must create an environment where more students feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual assault, so that more perpetrators can be brought to justice,” says O’Connor.

CASA aims to improve the way that colleges deal with sexual violence. It requires that colleges implement an annual survey of students, to measure the progress combating rape on campus. It also creates a system of confidential advisors — college employees to whom victims can turn to and receive help from following an attack. And it requires colleges to share, on their websites, hotlines that supports victims of sexual violence.

The legislation would also require colleges to treat all student investigations equally, banning the practice of letting athletic departments investigate allegations against their own players.

Additional highlights of the legislation include:

  • Establishment of new campus resources and support services for student survivors.
  • Minimum training standards for on-campus personnel.
  • Transparency requirements, including standardized and anonymous annual surveys, with results published online.
  • Increased campus accountability and coordination with law enforcement.
  • Enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations.

Sens. McCaskill and Gillibrand say that they hope to get a Senate vote on the bill soon, and urged the Senate’s education committee to advance the measure before the end of this session.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced the House companion bill, HR 1310, which has 30 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“The leaders here today have listened to hours and hours of input from groups like RAINN we are grateful for that and will continue to work alongside them to secure its passage,” said O’Connor.

To learn more about the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, visit Sen. Gillibrand’s website.

Take action with RAINN to support survivors and join the fight against sexual violence.

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