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S. Daniel Carter

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Congress Works to Prevent Sexual Violence at College

Posted: 09/19/11 04:13 PM ET

Sexual violence diminishes the value of the more than $40 billion taxpayers invest in federal student aid for higher education every school year. Many of the quarter of all women in college who are the victim of a completed or attempted rape interrupt or even end their education as a result of this trauma.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights recently stepped up enforcement of longstanding federal sexual harassment guidelines to protect these victims and our nation's investment in higher education and future. Recognizing that additional reforms are needed to more completely address the challenge, Congress took the next step and introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act or Campus SaVE Act this spring.

The bi-partisan Campus SaVE Act (S. 834/H.R. 2016) modernizes decades old campus safety guidelines found in the Jeanne Clery Act. These enhancements will empower colleges and universities to better prevent and respond to a full spectrum of sexual violence including domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in addition to sexual assault.

Most victims, about 90% according to U.S. Department of Justice research, know their assailants. They are often fellow students from the same social circle which helps to account for why fewer than 5% are ever reported to the police. The greatest threat doesn't lie along a poorly lit walkway; it hides in plain sight in classrooms, residence halls, and student parties.

SaVE enhances safety and encourages reporting by providing a structure to protect student and employee victims who report from retaliation or any ongoing threats. It grants victims the right to 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 are empowered to make fully informed decisions.

SaVE improves accountability by establishing consistent procedures for campus disciplinary proceedings with equal rights for both accused and accuser. Trained campus officials, who understand the dynamics of sexual violence, will promptly and equitably investigate and resolve all complaints.

SaVE expands transparency by updating the Clery Act's statistics to include a full spectrum of sexual violence, information that is currently denied to campus communities. Domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking will now be included in the crime statistics given to students and employees every fall.

SaVE revamps education by creating awareness and prevention education programs for all new students and employees that will continue throughout the school year. By going beyond traditional risk reduction alone and covering primary prevention, consent, bystander intervention and reporting options we will begin to change the culture of tolerance for sexual violence and the silence that surrounds it.

Finally, SaVE calls, for the first time, for collaboration between stakeholders in higher education assisted by key federal agencies to identify and share best practices. This collaboration will provide schools with information about programs that have proven successful based on evidence-based outcome measurements.

A bi-partisan coalition of more than 40 United States senators and representatives, led by Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY 14th), already support the Campus SaVE Act. More than 20 non-profit advocacy and education groups, led by Security On Campus, from across the country also support it.

We've made significant progress advancing SaVE, but need more help to make these changes a reality -- your help. Please visit http://www.securityoncampus.org/ today to take action and support the Campus SaVE Act. Even one voice can help break the silence of sexual violence, and every voice matters.

 

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