Congress Introduces Legislation to Prevent Sexual Violence on College Campuses

According to the Director of Public Policy of Security on Campus Inc., sexual violence on college campuses costs taxpayers nearly $40 billion that they contribute to federal student aid or higher education every school year. One in four women are reported as being the victim of a completed or attempted rape while in school and as a result, their education is either put on hold or halted altogether.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has recently taken action to enforce federal sexual harassment guidelines to protect these victims and it could not have come at a better time. Congress has taken the next step and has introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, also known as the Campus SAVE Act (S. 834/H.R. 2016). The bipartisan piece of legislation will empower universities nationwide to better prevent and respond to instances of sexual violence including domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 90% of victims know their perpetrators. They are often fellow students who share the same social circle, which is probably why fewer than 5% of cases are reported to the police. As Carter states, “The greatest threat doesn’t lie along a poorly lit walkway; it hides in plain sight in classrooms, residence halls, and student parties.”

If SAVE is passed, it will encourage individuals to report the crimes committed against them by providing schools with a structure to protect victims who report against retaliation or any ongoing threats. It grants victims the right to make any reasonably available changes in their academic, living or working arrangements, options for no-contact orders, assistance in reporting to the police, and a right to be informed of their options in writing so they have the necessary information to make fully informed decisions.

In addition to protecting victims, SAVE will hold universities accountable by establishing procedures for campus disciplinary proceedings with equal rights for both the accused and accuser. Trained officials, who will (hopefully)  understand the dynamics of sexual violence, will be on hand to investigate and resolve all complaints. Under SAVE, schools will be required to include domestic violence and stalking in the crime statistics distributed to students and employees at the beginning of each school year.

Congress hopes to address dating violence before it starts by using SAVE to create awareness and prevention education programs for all new students and employees that will continue throughout the year. It is their hope that by covering primary prevention, the definition and importance of consent, bystander intervention and reporting options, colleges will no longer harbor the culture of tolerance for sexual violence and the silence that surrounds it.

A bi-partisan coalition of more than 40 United States Senators and Representatives already support the Campus SAVE Act. More than 20 non-profit advocacy and education groups from across the country also support it.

Security on Campus, which is leading the campaign to make sure the Campus SAVE Act is passed, needs your help to make these changes a reality. Visit www.securityoncampus.org to help break the silence surrounding sexual violence. Every voice counts.

Source: Huffington Post/S. Daniel Carter

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