Warner, Kaine call for new tools to fight campus sexual assault

congressU.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are calling for additional federal resources to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws on college and university campuses.

The four Senators joined a bipartisan group of their colleagues to voice support for increased funding for the federal agency responsible for handling thousands of complaints related to campus sexual assault each year.

“Campus sexual assault is a troubling and pervasive problem on our college campuses. Every year, tens of thousands of women and men who attend college in the U.S. become victims of sexual assault,” wrote the Senators in a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, & Education. “Campus sexual assault is a crime that threatens students’ physical and emotional health and undermines students’ right to a safe educational environment… therefore we respectfully request that you provide at least $137.7 million in Fiscal Year 2017 for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, the amount requested by the President, to be used in part for the investigation and enforcement of Title IX related to sexual violence. In addition, we request sufficient funding to employ an additional eleven full-time equivalent personnel for the investigation and enforcement of the Clery Act, as requested by the President… it is essential that the U.S. Department of Education has the resources needed to ensure compliance with the federal laws that help protect our students from sexual violence.”

Laws covering sexual assault on campus are handled by the U.S. Department of Education, under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Jeanne Clery Act, which calls for colleges and universities to report information on crime on and around campuses, and provide victims with rights and resources. Each year, the Office for Civil Rights handles more than 10,000 complaints against schools over violations of Title IX but has just half the staff it did in 1980, when the office received a third of the amount of complaints as today.

Also joining the letter are Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Booker  (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.

Warner and Kaine have both sponsored legislation to combat the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and improve support for survivors. Senator Warner is an original co-sponsor of S.590, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which would enact a number of reforms to the way that universities and colleges prevent, respond to, and report crimes of sexual assault to strengthen transparency, accountability and consistency across campuses. Senator Kaine is an original co-sponsor of S.706, the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), which would require colleges and universities to ensure that an independent advocate is available to support survivors of sexual assault on every campus. A key provision of Kaine’s Teach Safe Relationships Act, legislation he introduced to help prevent campus sexual assault following a discussion with University of Virginia students, passed into law in December.

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