DC At-Large Council member Anita Bonds proposed new legislation this week that would require colleges and universities to clearly mark the transcript of a college student convicted of sexual assault while on campus, putting it permanently on a student’s college record.
The legislation, which is being referred to as the “Scarlet Letter” bill, would require colleges and universities to indicate a conviction of sexual assault on a student’s transcript, or on the transcript of students who withdraw from school while under investigation for sexual misconduct. Furthermore, the legislation would institute a number of sexual assault preventative measures and tools for colleges and universities to handle reports of sexual assault. For example, it would require a ratio of campus sexual assault workers to enrolled students of 1 for every 2,000, as well as mandate a sexual assault prevention course for all incoming students within the first six weeks of school.
“I am outraged by the proliferation of sexual assault on our college campuses,” said Councilmember Bonds in a statement. “I am introducing this bill because we need to do much more to combat these assaults and protect the victims.” Bonds is also the head of the Democratic Party in Washington, DC, and was joined by three council members in introducing the measure.
Bonds cited a recent Post-Kaiser poll which reaffirmed the commonly-cited statistic that one in five women, or twenty percent, who attended college in the past four years say they were sexually assaulted. The data from this poll also show that students are divided about the definition of consent, that victims of sexual assault suffer from trauma, and that a small minority of victims report the crime.
The findings of these data reflect the findings of a 2005 congressionally-mandated report by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), underscoring the lack of progress in lowering the 1 in 5 statistic of college sexual assault over the past decade. The NIJ report, which studied random samples from almost 2,500 schools including 2 and 4-year institutions, also found that twenty percent of college women experienced sexual assault, while only 12 percent reported the crime.
Studies have also shown that most rapists are repeat offenders; one study, supported by many others, found that though only 6 percent of men admitted to attempting or committing rape, on average those men had committed rape 5.8 times. Bonds’ proposal has many activists excited at the prospect of seriously impacting the cycle of sexual abuse on college campuses, in which often times if a student is convicted of sexual assault and expelled, they are then able to freely apply to and attend another college.
Media Resources: Washington Post 7/14/15; Anita Bonds Press Release 7/14/15; Feminist Newswire 6/15/15; Ms. Blog 2/18/14; “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending…” Lisak and Miller 2002