***WATCH full press conference HERE****
WASHINGTON, D.C. – To mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), other Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate and survivors of sexual assault joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) today to urge the Senate to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA). This bipartisan legislation would protect students, professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault cases, and provide colleges and universities with incentives to solve the problem of sexual assault on their campuses.
“In order to truly affect change, we need to come together and pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. By educating campus personnel, strengthening the law enforcement response, creating transparency and establishing support services for survivors of sexual assault, this bill takes clear steps to help those in West Virginia and around the country affected by sexual assault,” said Senator Capito.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported over 6,700 forcible sex offenses (rape and sexual battery) in 2014, but a recent Department of Justice study shows that the actual number of offenses is estimated to be at least four times that number. Colleges must create an environment where more students feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual assault, so that more perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Current federal law has had the perverse effect of encouraging colleges to under-report sexual assaults. The bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 590) would flip the incentives to protect students and professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault by doing the following:
1. Establishing new campus resources and support services for student survivors
Colleges and universities would be required to designate Confidential Advisors to assist survivors of sexual harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Confidential Advisors would coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, and provide information and assistance regarding options for reporting the crime to local law enforcement and/or campus authorities at the direction of the survivor. A report to a Confidential Advisor would not automatically trigger a Title IX investigation, and survivors would have support in filing a police report, thus making prosecutions more likely. Schools would no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation, like underage drinking, in good faith.
2. Ensuring minimum training standards for on-campus personnel
The lack of training for campus personnel can interfere with sexual assault investigations and student disciplinary proceedings, resulting in negative outcomes for both survivors and accused students. This legislation would ensure that everyone from the Confidential Advisor to those responsible for investigating and participating in student disciplinary proceedings would receive specialized training, so that they would have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes.
3. Creating historic new transparency requirements
Students at every university in America would be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence. The new biennial survey would be standardized and anonymous. Colleges and universities would publish the results online, and the Department of Education would be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence.
4. Requiring a uniform discipline process and coordination with law enforcement
All schools would use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and would no longer be allowed to have athletic departments or other subgroups handle complaints of sexual violence against members of that subgroup. Both survivors and accused students would receive notification if schools proceed with a disciplinary process regarding an allegation of sexual assault within 24 hours of such decision being made, and both survivors and the accused would be informed of their rights. Colleges and universities would be required to enter into memoranda of understanding with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder, to clearly delineate responsibilities and facilitate law enforcement investigations.
5. Establishing enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations
Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. Currently, the only allowable penalty is the loss of all financial aid, which is not practical and has never been done. The bill would increase penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation, from the current penalty of $35,000 per violation.