U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), legislation that would require colleges and universities to ensure that an independent advocate is available to support survivors of sexual assault on every campus. Congresswoman Susan Davis will introduce the House version of the bill next week when the House is back in session.
“Our responsibility is twofold – to embrace strategies that prevent sexual assaults and to ensure that survivors have the support they need,” said Kaine. “By designating independent advocates on college campuses, the S.O.S. Campus Act will connect survivors to valuable counseling, medical care and legal information.”
Last month, Kaine introduced the Teach Safe Relationships Act to improve health education classes in secondary schools by including information on “safe relationship behavior” which would focus on preventing sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence. The idea for this legislation came out of a recent meeting Kaine had at the University of Virginia with members of One Less, a group that advocates for survivors of rape and sexual assault, to listen to students’ recommendations for preventing campus sexual assault.
“Sexual assault survivors deserve an advocate who will stand up and fight for them every step of the way,” Boxer said. “The University of California and the California State University system are already moving to put independent advocates on all their campuses, and other colleges are following suit. I am pleased that Senators Gillibrand and Kaine have joined in this effort to ensure that sexual assault survivors on every campus have the services and support they deserve.”
“We’ve heard from survivors who, after enduring an assault, are left to fend for themselves through a disciplinary hearing,” said Gillibrand. “The campus advocate fills an essential role and would ensure that survivors will always have someone in their corner.”
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
Local Rape Crisis Centers and other community-based organizations are already providing many of these services in communities and on campuses around the nation. The legislation recognizes the importance of these partnerships by requiring that universities either consult with or partner with these organizations to ensure that survivors get the services they need. The advocate will also conduct a public information campaign on the campuses.
The S.O.S. Campus Act is supported by National Women’s Law Center, Victim Rights Law Center, Jewish Women International, Break the Cycle, the American Association of University Women, Legal Momentum, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Futures without Violence, and the Association of Title IX Administrators.