WASHINGTON, DC -- New legislation being introduced Wednesday is designed to crack down on sexual assaults on college and university campuses.
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was among a bipartisan group of senators who stood with survivors and advocates to announce the Campus Safety and Accountability Act on Wednesday morning.
Sen. Warner says the legislation will help to better protect and empower students, improve reporting, training and best practices, and strengthen transparency and accountability of educational institutions.
"Combating campus sexual assault requires a renewed focus on implementing best practices, and that means an open and honest dialogue between law enforcement, colleges and universities, and survivor groups on what works and what does not,” said Sen. Warner. “I am committed to working with this strong bipartisan group of colleagues to send a clear signal that enough is enough.”
In January, the Associated Press reported on a White House study that revealed one in five female students are assaulted while only one in eight student victims report it. The report found that campus sexual assaults are fueled by drinking and drug use that can incapacitate victims, often at student parties at the hands of someone they know.
Among the federal laws requiring colleges to address sexual assault are: Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education; the renewed Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law last year with new provisions on college sexual assault; and the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to publicly report their crime statistics every year, the Associated Press noted.
President and founder of Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Scott Berkowitz says they are grateful Senate leaders are working to solve the problem of rape on college campuses.
"The bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act will help improve the way that colleges deal with sexual violence, and will give more victims an opportunity for justice," Berkowitz said in a statement. "It will also help us measure progress, through an annual survey, and will stop the practice of letting athletic departments investigate allegations against their own players."
Provisions of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act:
New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors
Under this legislation, colleges and universities will be required to designate Confidential Advisors who will serve as a confidential resource for victims of crimes committed against a student. The role of Confidential Advisors will be to coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, to provide information about options for reporting, and to provide guidance or assistance, at the direction of the survivor, in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or local law enforcement. To encourage individuals to come forward with reports about sexual violence, schools will no longer be allowed to sanction a student who reveals a violation in good faith, such as underage drinking, in the process of reporting a sexual violence claim.
New Historic Transparency Requirements:
For the first time, students at every university in America will be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new annual survey will be standardized and anonymous, with the results published online so that parents and high school students can make an informed choice when comparing universities.
Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement:
All schools will now be required to use one uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints of sexual violence for members of that subgroup alone. This legislation will require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with all applicable local law enforcement agencies to clearly delineate responsibilities and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.