Syracuse, N.Y. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke at Syracuse University today for an event with Vice President Joe Biden to raise awareness about the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
Earlier this year Gillibrand hosted a roundtable meeting there with students and officials from Syracuse University and other Central New York area colleges, as well as survivors, advocates, and law enforcement to discuss bolstering efforts to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Gillibrand is pushing legislation in the Senate that would flip the current incentives of a broken system to provide real accountability and transparency from higher education institutions. The legislation would professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assaults that occur on campuses to better protect and empower survivors of campus sexual violence, while also protecting the rights of accused students.
Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery are copied below and video is available here.
“I want to thank Vice President Biden, who will be coming out in just a few minutes.
“We can all be inspired by his and President Obama’s efforts to address a serious problem that wasn’t getting the attention it needed.
“And thank you most of all to Syracuse University!
“You all make me so proud to be able to say that I represent this great school in Washington.
“I’m thrilled to see so many students out here today.
“And I admire all of you for raising your voices, telling your stories, and demanding action from lawmakers and society.
“The only way anything ever happens in Washington, the only way we will ever solve such a widespread, systemic problem like campus sexual assault, is if you – all of you – raise your voices and speak out about it.
“And when you do speak out, speak from the heart. Fight for things you fundamentally and passionately care about.
“Because I can tell you, you never know whom your story or arguments will inspire to become another champion for your cause.
“Let me tell you how the campus sexual assault issue first came to my attention.
“About a year ago, two young women walked into my office.
“They didn’t have an appointment. They didn’t have any connections on Capitol Hill. And they certainly didn’t have an expensive lobbyist to lead them in.
“Annie and Andrea had heard about my work to prevent sexual assault in the military, and they wanted help: the same crisis was unfolding on college campuses across the country. It had happened to them.
“When they tried to report their rapes, they were not believed. They were retaliated against. Justice was not possible.
“Instead of doing nothing, they took their stories to college campus after college campus, to be heard, to help other survivors like themselves, to make a difference, to achieve justice, to hold these schools accountable.
“Together, Annie and Andrea have helped other sexual assault survivors file dozens of federal Title IX complaints for how their schools mishandled their sexual assault claims.
“These young women are changing lives. They are helping their peers find justice.
“They took a risk to raise their voices, and now we are closer than ever to passing comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to make sure campus sexual assault cases are handled with the professionalism and fairness that students deserve.
“We are closer than ever to passing a bill that would finally give our colleges and universities an incentive to solve the problem, rather than stay silent and pretend it doesn’t exist.
“I look at Annie and Andrea as a case-study for how to make change.
“And when surveys keep confirming that one out of five women in college are sexually assaulted, we know we still have work left to do.
“We need to follow the example of Annie and Andrea, and speak out for what we believe in.
“If enough of you raise your voice and speak out, we can change the world. Thank you.”