April 29, 2014

Gillibrand Statement on White House Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault Action Items

Task Force Steps Include Campus Climate Survey that Gillibrand-Led Coalition Called for This Month

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released the following statement today after the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault announced initial steps to take to combat sexual assaults on college campuses, including an annual survey of campus assaults that Senator Gillibrand led a bipartisan group in calling for last week:

“The price of a college education should never include a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted. I am pleased the Task Force recommended the important initial step of a mandatory survey, which has consistently been the number one request of student survivors and advocates. But for these reforms to have a lasting effect to keep our students safe, Congress needs to act. I will continue working with my colleagues to build a bipartisan coalition that will take legislative action mandating this survey among other much needed reforms.

“I also want to commend the student survivors and activists who, through their courage, selflessness and concern for others, have pushed this issue out of the shadows and into the national spotlight. We would not be sitting today in the White House discussing solutions to campus sexual assault had they not raised their voices. I am thankful they did and together we will make sure all of Congress is listening.” 

Last week, Senator Gillibrand and colleagues recommended, among a group of action items, requiring all schools to administer a standardized, anonymous survey on campus sexual assaults that would be published annually online, similar to the Department of Defense’s own SAPRO survey. 

Sexual assault remains one of the nation’s most underreported crimes and the data under the Clery Act does not provide an accurate picture of safety on campus. There is currently a disincentive for colleges and universities to increase reporting since it puts them at a competitive disadvantage with other schools. This new standard for transparency would incentivize institutions to proactively address the growing crisis of campus sexual assault, encourage victims to report, and give students and parents the tools needed to assess campus safety as a criteria for choosing a college or university.

Senator Gillibrand is also working with Senator Claire McCaskill to secure new federal funding 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. Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill released a bipartisan letter signed by 12 of their colleagues to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders calling for additional funding for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Clery Act enforcement.