From left, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Anna, a survivor of sexual assault, appear at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 30, 2014, to discuss "Campus Accountability and Safety Act" that is before the Senate.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

New bipartisan bill addressing campus sexual assault introduced

Updated

A bipartisan commission in the Senate introduced a piece of legislation aiming to improve the sexual assault investigation procedures on college campuses across the country. Co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA),  Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The legislation introduced Wednesday contains five main stipulations to increase penalties on colleges and universities that fail to properly handle sexual assault occurrences.  It also creates new measurement efforts to monitor incidents of assault, instills additional advocacy elements, and calls for greater transparency by the Department of Education of their Title IX investigations.

If the bill passes, college students nationwide will be able to voice their concerns about their school’s handling of sexual assaults through an expanded survey system.  Additionally, the bill seeks to standardize the process for sexual assault investigations because these procedures currently vary widely from institution to institution.

Sen. Grassley emphasized the potential influence this legislation has to empower victims of assault by providing consistent and reliable resources on college campuses that are commensurate with the seriousness of the act committed. 

“Sexual assault is not some mere code of conduct violation. It is a major criminal offense,” Grassley stated. “Like with any crime, weak enforcement makes the problem worse. This bill will start to turn that around.”

This bill comes to the floor during expanded investigations of 72 colleges and universities for violations of the Title IX requirement for schools to carry out an adequate response to campus sexual assaults.  

Victims of sexual assault have increasingly shared their stories of victimization and the lack of accountability on the part of their educational institutions, but this bill truly brings the issue to the national stage.

Congress plans to leave for summer recess at the end of this week, but it is possible that this bill may pass in the few days left for legislation in the fall.

Sexual Assault

New bipartisan bill addressing campus sexual assault introduced

Updated