Eight Senators Announce Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act

Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN, speaks at Capitol Hill press conferenceRAINN’s president and founder, Scott Berkowitz, today spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, alongside survivor advocates and Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

This Senate bill 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, the phone number and URL for a local, state, or national hotline 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.

“A study by Sen. McCaskill found that 20% of colleges leave the oversight of rape investigations to the athletic department, when the alleged perpetrator is an athlete. This bill will stop this practice and will level the playing field for survivors coming forward,” said Berkowitz at the press conference. “We are very encouraged to see such wide bipartisan support here today, and look forward to working with these members to pass a strong bill that will support survivors and reduce the number of violent assaults on campus.”

Tre'Shonda Sheffey, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Scott Berkowitz, Annie Clark, and Andrea Pino pose together at Capitol Hill press conference

Left to right: Tre'Shonda Sheffey, Wagatwe Wanjuki, Scott Berkowitz, Annie E. Clark, and Andrea Pino

Sen. Heller remarked, “Our children should be focused on learning in a safe and productive environment, not about what dangers exist on their own campus,” and Sen. Gillibrand added, “We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are. And it has to end.”

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, after students head back to college in September.

Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ted Poe (R-TX) plan to introduce a companion bill in the House.

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

If you or someone you know is struggling with on-campus sexual violence, you are not alone. Help is available 24/7 at online.rainn.org or by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).


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