A bipartisan bill aimed at holding colleges and universities accountable for rape and sexual assault cases was introduced in Congress yesterday, spearheaded by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Some of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act’s key key provisions include a requirement of confidential reporting systems on colleges and universities, minimum training requirements for campus personnel, and stricter penalties for schools found to be in violation of Title IX or the Clery Act. Senator Gillibrand expressed her confidence in these new provisions, explaining that “for the first time it is in [a college or university’s] best interest to solve the problem, and do so aggressively.”
Joining those announcing the bill were Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, co-founders of End Rape on Campus. “Campus violence does not have a political party, and we need this bill because our students need better than the current status quo,” said Clark, reminding the audience that currently one in four women attending college experience sexual assault.
“It’s time for our students to be students again- without the challenge of single-handedly holding their schools accountable, and without the fear of sharing their degree with their rapist,” said Pino, calling on Congress to pass the bill. “The time to fight is now.”
Pino and Clark’s stories are told in an unprecedented documentary opening this weekend in New York City and Los Angeles. The Hunting Ground details the campus rape epidemic and the stories of many survivors of campus rape and sexual assault in their fight for justice. It also highlights campus activism that has risen in response to the lack of action taken by colleges and universities to combat sexual assault and support survivors.
Paige McKinsey, president of Feminist United, the Feminist Majority Foundation affiliated student group at Mary Washington University, is one such student organizing around this issue. She is hopeful that her university is taking more notice to the issue of campus sexual assault, but recognizes that there is still a long way to go. “I think that no university right now is doing as much as they could or as much as they need to be doing to support victims and survivors,” McKinsey said.
The Act was first introduced to Congress last year, but was not approved. The bill has been strengthened, however, and Senator Gillibrand and the 12 Senators who support the bill are confident that this time it will pass.
Media Resources: Senator Gillibrand Press Release 2/26/15; EndRapeOnCampus.org; OneinFourUSA.org; Hunting Ground Film; NY Post 2/27/15; ABC7 2/26/15;