Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Combat Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) on Campus Sexual Assault Act, while Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act).
Published: August 6, 2014

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers in California and Pennsylvania have introduced legislation to help protect college students against sexual assaults.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) on Campus Sexual Assault Act, bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Patrick Meehan.

In January, Congresswoman Speier led a bipartisan letter signed by 39 members that called for more transparency about investigations and enforcement actions against institutions found deficient in their protections against sexual violence. Additionally, the document asked for the Department of Education to develop policy guidance to support colleges to create prevention and response efforts that include same-sex sexual violence.

“The fact that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college should frighten all of us,” Speier says. “Students and parents deserve to know which institutions are safe and that failure to protect victims results in tangible consequences. Many colleges have swept these crimes under the rug to avoid bad publicity, loss of enrollment and federal funding. They have put protecting their reputations above protecting their student bodies.

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“It’s going to take money, increased transparency, enforcement and a dramatic change in the culture to end the epidemic of campus sexual assault,” she continues. “Students need to have the confidence that they can seek a higher education in a safe environment. They should be worried about registering for classes and not registering complaints.”

The HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act strengthens prevention and enforcement by requiring:

  • The Department of Education to issue penalties for noncompliance with civil rights requirements under its authority, including Title IX
  • The availability of a private right of action for students harmed by institutions that fail to meet campus safety requirements
  • Increasing penalties for Clery Act violations
  • Annual climate surveys
  • Public disclosure of all resolutions agreements between higher education institutions and the Department of Education and compliance reviews
  • Increased funding for Title IX and Clery investigators
  • Expansion of institutional requirements for notifying and publicly posting students’ legal rights and institutions’ obligations under Title IX
  • An interagency task force to increase coordination between agencies and enhance investigations

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) introduced the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), legislation that would require colleges and universities to establish an independent, on-campus advocate to support survivors of sexual assault.

The legislation would require every institution of higher education that receives federal funding to designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault prevention and response. This advocate would be responsible for ensuring that survivors of sexual assault – regardless of whether they decide to report the crime – have access to:

  • Emergency and follow-up medical care
  • Guidance on reporting assaults to law enforcement
  • Medical forensic or evidentiary exams
  • Crisis intervention, ongoing counseling and assistance throughout the process
  • Information on their legal rights

The advocate will also conduct a public information campaign on the campuses.

The bill is supported by the University of California, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Women’s Law Center, Break the Cycle, Jewish Women International, the American Association of University Women, Futures Without Violence, the Association of Title IX Administrators and Savannah Badalich, Founder of UCLA’s 7000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault. 

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve an advocate who will fight for them every step of the way,” Senator Boxer says. “Our bill, which has been endorsed by the University of California, will help encourage more victims to come forward and report these heinous crimes. I will work with my colleagues to pass this important bill and other broader legislation to end the epidemic of violence on our nation’s campuses.”


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