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Campus Save Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PERRIELLO. Madam Speaker, I recently introduce the ``Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act'' or ``Campus SaVE Act''. This bill will help better protect our Nation's college and university students from sexual assault and other forms of intimate partner violence.

Recent events on campuses across the Nation have come as a shocking wake-up call to many of us about the issue of dating violence. While not often thought of as a college problem, nearly a third, 29 percent, of college students reported physically assaulting a dating partner in one study by the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

Sexual assault is also more widespread than often believed. Between one-fifth and one-quarter of female undergraduates will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape, in nearly all cases by an acquaintance or intimate partner, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, DOJ, although fewer than five percent report to the authorities.

More than 13 percent of women also reported having been stalked in a single school year according to the DOJ.

The Campus SaVE Act would update 18-year-old provisions in the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, Clery Act. These longstanding provisions already require sexual assault awareness programming and victims' rights, but don't address the full range of intimate partner violence or incorporate the latest lessons learned about how to successfully prevent and respond to these challenges.

Our bill would amend the Clery Act so that it covers a more inclusive range of intimate partner violence including stalking, dating violence, sexual violence, or domestic violence. It would also expand the education programs institutions must offer to include primary prevention and bystander intervention. This will empower the students themselves to know how to intervene, and to do so safely, something the University of Virginia has led the way in discussing. Violence prevention experts believe that this type of bystander intervention is a critical piece of the solution because these incidents often aren't reported to campus or other officials, and fellow students are in many ways the true first responders.

It would also require a discussion of consent and information about the scope of intimate partner violence at each institution.

One reason these crimes aren't more widely discussed is that all too often their victims do not come forward to seek justice or even assistance. They feel they will not receive the support they need, or even worse that they will be revictimized by a process not set up to handle their report properly, according to the victim advocates I consulted with. Many end up transferring or leaving school altogether.

For these reasons, the Campus SaVE Act would also provide for a more robust framework of victims' rights in these cases designed to better guarantee a supportive structure. Victims would have a right to prompt proceedings conducted by officials trained in the issues of sex offenses and intimate partner violence.

The proceedings would also use the preponderance of the evidence standard, the standard used in any civil court proceeding across the United States, rather than a higher burden such as clear and convincing or even the beyond a reasonable doubt. This will guarantee the accused significant due process, while not making it more difficult than necessary for institutions to effectively respond to threats to campus safety.

Finally, the Campus SaVE Act provides for the U.S. Department of Education to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Justice, leveraging their experience from administering the Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus program, to compile and disseminate best practices information. While ensuring campuses have the latitude to develop programs that work best for their own unique communities, this will guarantee institutions have the tools they need to develop effective programs without significant experimentation or expense.

I would like to thank the team at Security On Campus, Inc., SOC, the national non-profit group founded by Jeanne Clery's parents, Connie and Howard, after her rape and murder on her Pennsylvania campus in 1986, for their support in developing this legislation and for their full endorsement. Liz Seccuro, herself a survivor of campus rape at the University of Virginia in 1984, has been especially inspiring in her support of our work and I want to commend her for her courage in coming forward publicly so that the current generation of students can receive the protection she was denied.

I would also like to thank Kristen Lombardi and Kristen Jones of the Center for Public Integrity. Their year-long expose ``Sexual Assault On Campus--A Frustrating Search for Justice'' ran earlier this year, along with companion segments on NPR, exposing many of the gaps the Campus SaVE Act will help to fill.

Madam Speaker, the scope of intimate partner violence significantly undermines the billions of taxpayer dollars we invest in higher education. The Campus SaVE Act will help protect this investment, but more importantly our most valuable asset--our children and our future. College campuses should be a safe and secure place of learning, not a place where anyone feels uncomfortable or unsafe.


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