By Anne Hedgepeth
Government Relations Manager, AAUW
Students go off to college each year only to be confronted with violence in their classrooms, dorm rooms, student unions, and at social events. College-age women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls has to be changing the climate on college campuses, and we have a chance to make needed progress in the next several months.
A 2007 campus sexual assault study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that around 28 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault while they are college students. According to a 2000 report funded by the National Institute of Justice, the vast majority of campus sexual assault is committed by acquaintances, and in 90 percent of the cases the victim knew her or his attacker. Additionally, this violence interferes with students’ educational goals. Women and men who experience sexual harassment and violence on campus often struggle with classes and assignments following an incident and may not make it to graduation day.
So, what do we do? There has been progress recently, including the Department of Education’s guidance on schools’ responsibilities under Title IX (which does protect against sexual assault), efforts by advocates to educate students about Title IX, and the passage of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
But the stories that emerge weekly remind me that some progress isn’t making its way to every community, and there have been major lapses on college campuses that must be investigated and dealt with. Just this week I heard that Occidental College and the University of Southern California admitted they didn’t report all of the sexual assaults on campus in 2010 and 2011. More progress must be made.
Over the next six months, advocates, students, administrators, and schools will come together to work out how to implement the Campus SaVE Act by the 2014–15 school year. The process that they’ll be a part of is called a negotiated rulemaking, and it’s an interesting nuance of federal higher education policy. Those selected for the rulemaking panel will be charged with answering questions about any vague statutory language and help provide additional clarity about how schools can best comply with the components of the Campus SaVE Act, which will increase schools’ sexual assault prevention, reporting, and education requirements.
Although we don’t know yet how this process will go, we know that at the end of the day we will have an updated and stronger law to help end campus sexual violence. It’s a good start toward ending violence.
Anne Hedgepeth is the Government Relations Manager in AAUW’s Public Policy and Government Relations Department. She works hard to advance AAUW’s policy priorities on Capitol Hill and organizes AAUW’s weekly Lobby Corps program. Anne is a 2007 graduate of Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a 2013 graduate of George Mason University with a master’s in public policy.
Cross-posted with permission from AAUW Blog
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