Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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After Taking On Sexual Assault In The Military, Gillibrand Joined By NYC Student Survivors Launches New Effort Fighting Sexual Assaults On College Campuses

Nearly 1 in 5 Women in College Nationwide Will Be Victims of Assault or Attempted Assault as Undergrads – College Women at Greater Risk of Assault than Non-College Peers Federal Agencies Responsible for Investigating, Enforcing Standards Left With Only A Fraction of Resources, Staff Gillibrand Calls for New Federal Funding to Enforce Campus Sexual Assault Laws, Hold Colleges and Universities Accountable for Reporting

April 7, 2014

New York, NY – Just weeks after her year long fight to reform how the U.S. military justice system handles sexual assault cases came to the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was joined by New York City students and college sexual assault survivors in launching a new effort to combat the disturbing prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses. Studies show nearly one in five women in college nationwide will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in the course of their undergraduate careers. In 2012 alone, New York State colleges and universities reported 365 forcible sex offenses, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

As a first step of action, Senators Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released a joint bipartisan letter signed by 12 of their colleagues to Senate Committee Appropriations leaders calling for an increase in the federal funding needed to ensure timely investigations and proper enforcement under current sexual assault laws at colleges and universities. In part due to a lack of resources, non-compliance with current law is far too common.  

“When our young people go on to higher education, it should be an opportunity to learn, grow, pursue their dreams and prepare for their future careers,” saidSenator Gillibrand. “But the price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault. It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe.”   

“My rapist—a serial rapist—still remains on campus, even though three of the women he assaulted reported him to my university’s Office of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct,” said Emma Sulkowicz, a junior at Columbia University. “Every day I live in fear of seeing him. I can't help but think of all the other students who have been trough similar ordeals, knowing the fear they must feel, too. I know all too well how important it is that all universities comply with the Clery Act and the Title IX act of 1972. This is why I am thankful for the steps senator Gillibrand has taken to fight such a widespread problem. I support her cause.” 

“Our ‘Making the Grade’ report - released jointly by SAFER and V-Day in October - highlighted the lack of accessibility, oversight and enforcement of existing college sexual assault policies,” SAFER (Students Active For Ending Rape) and V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. “College student activists reported on their schools existing policies as well as a need to address the existing culture of rape. We applaud Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill for their attention to this issue, for advancing the important work led by student survivors and advocate groups, and for their commitment to creating violence-free campuses nationwide.”

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012, putting college women at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.


The Department of Education handles laws covering sexual assault on campus. Title IX, a federal gender equity law, requires colleges and universities to respond to sexual assault and harassment cases on campus and have policies in place to help prevent such incidents. The Jeanne Clery Act mandates that colleges and universities must report information on crime on and around campuses and provide victims with select rights and resources. Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities can be fined for violations or made ineligible from participating in federal student financial aid programs.


Each year, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles more than 10,000 complaints against schools over a range of violations of federal civil rights laws, including Title IX violations, but only has half the staff it did in 1980, when OCR received a third of the amount of complaints as today. Not one position of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints. 

Worsening the problem, the department which oversees enforcement of the Clery Act has less than a dozen staff members to enforce the law at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the country, leaving the Office of Federal Student Aid’s Compliance Division unable to investigate the 63 percent of schools that failed to report crime statistics in the manner required by the Clery Act. Nearly one-third of the campus sexual assault policies at nearly 300 colleges surveyed do not fully comply with the Clery Act. From 2000 to 2013, Clery Act enforcement employees were only able to investigate and collect enough data to impose fines on just 21 colleges or universities.


To begin to get a handle on the growing crisis on campus sexual assault, Senator Gillibrand is working to equip the right federal agencies with the resources needed to create real accountability.  

Also joining the Gillibrand-McCaskill letter are Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), John Tester (D-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

The Senators’ complete letter is below:

 

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Moran,

 

We are writing to urge you to support additional funding for the compliance and enforcement of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) regarding sexual assault on college campuses.

 

Adequate investigation, resolution and enforcement for violations of the Clery Act and Title IX have been weak for many reasons, including a lack of trained staff dedicated to the problem of addressing the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses.  In addition, new regulations from last year’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization regarding monitoring and reporting under the Clery Act will be put into effect later this year and will require additional staff and training to handle the expected increased workload.

 

Therefore, we respectfully request that you provide $2 million to employ thirteen additional staff specifically trained and focused on investigating sexual assault cases as part of the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division of the U.S. Department of Education.  In addition, we request at least $102 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the amount requested by the President, plus $5.046 million for OCR to hire staff exclusively dedicated to investigation and enforcement of Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence.

 

Campus sexual violence is a pervasive and deeply troubling problem that is plaguing colleges and universities across the United States. According to a 2007 campus sexual assault study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly one in five women in college and six percent of men in college will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in the course of their undergraduate careers. A report from the National Institute of Justice revealed that college women are at higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college-bound peers. Campus sexual violence is a crime that threatens students’ physical and emotional health and undermines students’ right to a safe, non-hostile educational environment.

 

The U.S. Department of Education is charged with regulating institutions of higher education to ensure compliance with Federal laws dealing with campus sexual assault, namely, Title IX and the Clery Act. Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Title IX and the Compliance Division of the Office of Federal Student Aid handles complaints against schools regarding violations of the Clery Act. OCR receives over 10,000 complaints each year regarding the broad range of Federal civil rights laws that OCR enforces. However, due to budget constraints, OCR is currently operating with less than half the staff the office had in 1980, when OCR received a third as many complaints. In addition, not one of OCR’s staff is dedicated exclusively to handling Title IX sexual violence complaints. The Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division has less than a dozen staff members who are responsible for enforcement of the Clery Act at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the United States.

  

Given the extent of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, there is a clear need for more  trained staff to enforce the laws currently on the books. In addition, the issuance of new Clery Act regulations later this year will only increase the demand on the U.S. Department of Education to tackle the problem of campus sexual assault. Therefore, we respectfully request sufficient funding to employ additional staff and institute added training for the Clery Compliance Team within the Office of Federal Student Aid Compliance Division and at the Office for Civil Rights, exclusively dedicated to compliance and enforcement with federal regulations surrounding campus sexual violence.

 

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.