Campus Safety Act

Katharine Hada, Co-editor-in-chief

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As college based sexual assault claims rise to unheard of numbers, legislative representatives have begun proposing bills — up for vote Nov. 2016 — in the hopes of eradicating these issues.

According to a 2015 fact sheet on Campus Sexual Violence, one in four women in higher educational systems have been victims of some form of sexual assault. As legislative officials discuss the future of campus safety and how it effects rape victims and predators, it’s important to stay informed to vote for the best outcome. 

One impending controversial bill presented is the Safe Campus Act, posed by former Mississippi senator Trent Lott.

The Safe Campus Act is sponsored by Republican representatives Matt Salmon, from Arizona, and Pete Sessions and Kay Granger from Texas. This proposed bill essentially prohibits colleges and universities from investigating any sexual assault claim until the victim reports the crime. 

Additionally, the Safe Campus Act works off of the Clery Act, which helps colleges with Title IX funding a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity to allocate money and effort to sexual assault prevention training on campuses. 

Theoretically, this bill would be the next step in the fight to free college campus’ of sexual assault crimes, building off of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) initially passed by President Clinton in 1994, which was renewed by both President Bush and President Obama. The act funded rape investigations and prosecutions, imposed a mandatory sentence on rapists, and penalized prosecutors who turned a blind eye to rape cases.

The biggest issue with the Safe Campus Act is it requires victims to post a formal report, essentially protecting the rights of the falsely accused, and effectively making it easier on the rapists and harder on the victims. Under the Campus Safety Act, the victim does not have any protection unless they are willing to testify in a court of law. If they are not willing to do so the rapist goes free, according to law officials, acting as if the offense never occurred. Which is a major cause for concern. 

But what are our alternatives?

Backed by Democrats, the Campus SaVE Act was passed as part of the VAWA in 2013, and is a proposed update to the Clery Act. This act requires that colleges and universities provide awareness education programs and publish data about dating and sexual violence claims on their campus’. The SaVE Act would require schools to adhere to a uniform process for disciplinary proceedings — working closely with local law enforcement — and strengthen training requirements for on-campus response.

It is clear that state legislators share the common goal of making campuses safer for students. However, the idea of protecting the rights of the perpetrator instead of the victim is ludicrous.

So why is this so important? The fate of how college and campus officials address these issues is up for discussion in the upcoming elections. While schools should continue to do everything within their power to protect and educate students from sexual assault crimes, it is important to be doing it in a way that protects  and educates the majority. State legislators should do everything within their power to make sure this is possible. Students should continue to speak up about the importance of their rights under the Clery Act, VAWA, and Title IX, and get educated on these issues. Speak to your fellow students! Speak to campus officials! Make sure you are protecting your rights to education and safety, and not protecting the rights of potential perpetrators. 

 

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