Author’s Note: This article discuss sexual assault.
A new bill regarding sexual assault cases on college campuses nationwide has recently been introduced into the House and has already been met with criticism and backlash from sexual assault survivors and advocacy organizations alike.
The Safe Campus Act bill, which was originally sponsored by Republican Representatives Pete Sessions and Kay Granger of Texas and Matt Salmon of Arizona, would prohibit colleges from punishing an accused assaulter or rapist and battery until the victim files a report with the police. If the Safe Campus Act was put into effect, colleges and universities would still be able to punish students who commit illegal transgressions, such as distributing drugs, without police involvement being required. But in order for school administrators to pursue a case of sexual assault or battery, the reporting victim would need to make the decision to involve the cops.
Under the Title IX gender equity laws, colleges and universities are already required to address reports of sexual assaults and violence. As of now, when a student reports a case of sexual assault by a peer, the college can investigate and choose to punish the accused student, without needing to involve the police. Colleges and universities are thus obligated to enforce the school’s codes of conduct and to protect the rights of victims.
Sexual violence advocacy groups and survivors fear that the passage of the Safe Campus Act will prevent victims from coming forth and reporting the instances of sexual assault. The co-founder of End Rape on Campus, Sofie Karasek, has spoken out and said, “It sends the message that if you didn’t go to law enforcement, then what happened to you wasn’t real and wasn’t important, and that is the opposite of the culture we’re trying to create.”
Advocates for the passage of the bill believe that including the police in the process of investigating sexual assault on campus will foster a sense of trust between students and police officers. Supporters of the Safe Campus Act also believe that the passage of the bill will help prevent false rape accusations from being made and will protect those students who are falsely accused of committing an act of sexual assault or violence.
Fraternities and sororities across the nation have been actively promoting the Safe Campus Act bill, and this has caused further backlash against Greek life from sexual assault advocacy groups. Over the past year, the news has been full of headlines regarding sexual assault cases involving fraternities across the nation. Many sexual assault advocacy organizations are infuriated because they feel that fraternities are simply trying to shift the attention away from their own mistakes and avoid taking the blame.
Twenty-seven sexual assault advocacy organizations have already spoke out against the Safe Campus Act and have expressed their aversion to its potential passage. Nita Chaudhary, co-founder and co-executive director of UltraViolet, recently said, “UltraViolet stands with countless rape survivors who oppose the so-called ‘Safe Campus Act,’ that in reality would make campuses even less safe for far too many. Survivors should still receive accommodations on campus even if they cannot, or do not feel comfortable, seeking justice through the courts.”
The Safe Campus Act has quickly become a highly debated bill for everyone from politicians, to college students, to sexual assault survivors. It will be interesting to watch as the controversy over campus sexual assault cases continues to flourish.
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