As a father to four daughters, including one in college, the sexual assault crisis on college campuses is personal. Every time a college student is the victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking, we as a nation have failed that student. We must continue to build healthy, safe communities where students can learn and grow without fear, and where victims are provided immediate assistance and perpetrators are appropriately punished. As elected officials, but also as fathers, Governor Wolf and I take this responsibility seriously. On campuses, we must all step up to do the right thing: intervene before a problem occurs; promote dialogue and respect among members of the campus community; provide support and justice to victims.
Throughout the past year, I have visited several college campuses in Pennsylvania to discuss the implementation of my Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) Act, which I passed into law as part of the Violence Act Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) in 2013. The Campus SaVE Act improves how campus communities respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. It helps to empower students and employees to end unhealthy relationships and seek assistance. Institutions must have clearly defined policies for reporting and conduct campus disciplinary proceedings. The Campus SaVE act targets this issue from the most crucial angles?—?improving prevention efforts and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, motivating everyone in the community to become involved in asserting that violence and abuse will not be tolerated, and ensuring that victims are supported.
Each college I visited was working to comply with the Campus SaVE Act. After each visit, I was encouraged by the partnerships institutions are building to strengthen their community and keep students safe. Now that the law has been implemented for a school year, I look forward to continuing my dialogue with students and administrators to learn more about how the legislation is working, and what improvements can be made.
Governor Wolf has also taken steps to eliminate campus sexual assault with the ‘It’s On Us PA’ campaign, which is the first statewide effort to address this crisis. Governor Wolf has made connections with over 50 rape crisis centers across the state who are ready to work with colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. This campaign will empower citizens in Pennsylvania to keep our students safe and end the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.
This crime is an ongoing crisis to which we must respond urgently and with compassion for victims. Those who commit sexual assault must be held fully accountable, and those who stand by must be empowered to speak up and support their peers. Everyone in the community must step up and work together. That is what Governor Wolf and I are doing at the state and federal level. By promoting the Campus SaVE Act and the ‘It’s On Us Campaign,’ we are one step closer to ensuring safety for all students on college campuses.