Preventing Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

Yesterday, I introduced legislation with Senator Specter to address sexual assaults and intimate partner violence at colleges and universities. S. 4039, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act), would establish procedures for responding to an incident of sexual assault or intimate partner violence on college campuses. The Department of Justice estimates that 20 to 25 percent of female undergraduates are victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault each year, and the perpetrators are frequently acquaintances.

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence are not like other types of assault. Ninety percent or more of victims do not come forward. Twenty-five percent of the victims do not come forward specifically because they are afraid that they will not be believed or that they will be met with hostility for reporting a sexual assault. In the last two years, there have been six murders of college students in Pennsylvania that were related to intimate partner violence. Five were killed by a partner or former partner. Two of the victims were sexually assaulted or raped. Each of these crimes is a tragedy; none of them should have happened; all of them could have been prevented.

Colleges already report certain crime statistics, but they have not sufficiently established policies for dealing with sexual assault and intimate partner violence, in part because the federal government has not established clear standards. The Campus SaVE Act closes this gap by providing clear standards for what colleges must do to protect and support victims of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. These are common-sense policies like:

  • Developing a clear statement of policy outlining the school’s programs to prevent sexual assault and other forms of intimate partner violence like stalking, dating violence, sexual violence and domestic violence;
  • Outlining the procedures that must be followed once one of these offenses has occurred, including providing written information to victims about their rights to notify law enforcement, the option of being assisted by campus authorities in contacting the police, the right of victims to obtain protective or restraining orders, and information about resources like advocacy, counseling, health, mental health and legal assistance available to the victim; and
  • Agreeing to honor any court orders of protection, no contact or restraint.

The policy statement will include education and prevention activities to raise awareness among students, including:

  • Information about the definition of consensual sex,
  • How to report sex offenses,
  • Bystander intervention, and
  • Risk reduction.

Click here to read the text of the Campus SaVE Act.