CAMPUS SAFETY
12:58 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Sen. Gillibrand Co-sponsors Legislation Aimed at Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is one of eight co-sponsors of a bipartisan bill aimed at bringing sexual assault on college campuses out of the shadows.  The Campus Accountability and Safety Act aims to create accountability and transparency on campuses by giving aggressively penalizing colleges and universities that don’t properly investigate sexual assaults.  

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY), center, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo), right, at a Capitol press conference announcing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY), center, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Mo), right, at a Capitol press conference announcing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
Credit bbc.com

 Gillibrand says the survivors who come forward to tell their stories are the definition of courage.

Fines for under-reporting include up to 1% of an institution’s operating budget, which could amount to millions of dollars. 

Gillibrand says the confidential advisors can play a key role in getting survivors the services they need and assisting the investigation.

"She is able to know what her options are, what it would like if she did a college campus review, what it would look like if she went through the criminal justice system, and she can have complete control of her case.  Having that first entry point be someone who's well trained, which is not the case on college campuses today, so they actually ask the right questions in the right order so they save information that's needed later and give comfort to that  survivor, that will result in more reporting and more ultimate prosecutions."

The measure also requires a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement so it’s clear who will take the lead on the investigation.  Gillibrand expects support for the legislation to grow in time, and hopes for floor time in September to make the case.  She’s optimistic the measure will pass this year. 

VERA HOUSE REACTS

The Education Director of Vera House thinks the new legislation is a positive step forward. Loren Cunningham says while one piece of legislation can't address all aspects of the issue, it is important that colleges and universities will be held more accountable. 

   
Loren Cunningham stands in front of a wall of artwork by survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Loren Cunningham stands in front of a wall of artwork by survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Credit John Smith / WAER News
Cunningham says some of the local colleges and universities in Syracuse are more receptive than others to training and prevention activities, but adds Vera House has a good working relationship with most of them.

According to information provided by Gillibrand, most institutions are unwilling to investigate and report incidents of sexual assault for fear of turning away potential students.  The legislation would set harsh penalties for colleges and universities who don’t comply.