NEWSFLASH: Congresswoman Announces Plan for New Campus Rape Legislation

8702033607_c69a615fcf_zSexual assault is rampant on college campuses across the U.S. As we wrote in the winter/spring 2014 issue of Ms., one in five women students will be assaulted during her post-secondary career.

The good news is that lawmakers are taking action to stop campus rape: Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) announced earlier this month plans for federal legislation that would require annual campus surveys, more funding for federal investigators and reports revealing the results of campus investigations.

“The prevalence of sexual assault on campuses is an epidemic,” Speier said. “It’s going to take money, resources, enforcement and a dramatic change in the culture [to fix it].”

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have also taken up the charge for victims of campus rape by asking for more funding for  the Clery Act of 1990, which requires post-secondary schools receiving federal financial aid to disclose crimes committed on campus.

When the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized last year, changes to the Clery Act were also made—and the senators say that more money is needed for it to be truly effective.

According to a letter co-written by McCaskill and Gillibrand, the federal government’s Clery Compliance Team doesn’t have enough staff members to investigate the estimated 63 percent of schools that fail to comply with Clery’s requirements (there are more than 6,000 post-secondary institutions that fall under the Act). From 2000 to 2013, the group was only able to investigate and impose fines on 21 post-secondary schools.

McCaskill and Gillibrand have asked for $2 million to hire 13 new staff to the Clery Compliance Team, $102 million for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and $5.046 million for OCR to hire staff to investigate crimes and enforce sexual assault-related rules under Title IX.

Even without adequate federal funding, students are speaking out against campus sexual assault and calling on schools to take sex crimes seriously. For example, more than 50,000 people signed a petition last month urging Dartmouth College to “expel rapists, list rape as a punishable offense and expulsion as the preferred punishment in the student handbook, and block access to the ‘rape guide‘ [an anonymous online forum promoting sexual assault] on campus.”

For more on the campus sexual-assault crisis, get the latest issue of Ms.

Photo of Rep. Speier courtesy of Flickr user The Skyline View licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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Stephanie Hallett is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. She can be found on Twitter @stephhallett.

Comments

  1. I’m so glad we have representatives like Jackie Speier in Congress. I sure hope her bill passes!

  2. Rape anywhere is a despicable crime. While the person raped is the one harmed most, the rapist is also harmed until he is repentant, truly, and begs forgiveness and pledges to try to bring healing to the person raped and to the community. The emphasis on sex and the use of “sexy” as a positive adjective in our society need to be changed. There’s a lot more to life than sex, and we must not short-change ourselves from fully living in the beauty of nature, the joy of music, the satisfaction of a job well done. We must bring up our children to appreciate each other as whole persons, and not as objects of anything–of lust for sex, power, or money.

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