Senators Cross Aisle on Bill to Curb College Sexual Assault

(Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

In a rare show of bipartisanship, a group of Republican and Democratic senators today introduced a bill to curb sexual assaults on college campuses.

"If you are a young woman and you attend school, the odds jump that you will be sexually assaulted at school, probably by someone you know from your class, from a team, from a party," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. "The price of a college education should not be that one in five women will be sexually assaulted."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said, "We are telling our young people every day that in order to get ahead they have to go to school. Let's make sure that when they do that they're safe."

Added Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.: "We are done with the days of asking victims why they drank too much, or wore the wrong thing or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy. Those days are done and students are embracing a new culture of accountability that will be enforced through this measure."

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The measure, called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), would create new support services for victims of sexual assault on college campuses, including designating "confidential advisers" for students to speak with and ensure that on-campus staff receives specialized training on handling sexual assault cases.

It would also require colleges and universities to survey all of their students on their experiences with sexual violence on campus; require the Department of Education to release the names of schools with pending investigations into their handling of sexual assault cases; increase coordination between colleges and law enforcement; remove the ability of athletic departments to handle sexual assault cases involving athletes; and institute a penalty for schools that don't comply with Title IX.

The senators were joined by survivors of sexual assault, who detailed the responses they received when they reported their assaults.

"When I reported that I was sexually assaulted, someone told me that rape was like a football game and that I should look back on that game to figure out what I would do differently in that situation," Annie Clark, 25, a former student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.

Andrea Pino, 22, also a UNC alum, said, "One Sunday morning my sophomore year at Carolina, I woke up in a bed soaked in blood with bruises of my attacker. My body was covered in bruises and far away from home, I was alone in my recovery, told by my administrators that I could just not handle college."

The co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Rubio, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

The bill comes weeks after a Senate subcommittee released a survey finding that 41 percent of institutions didn't conduct a single investigation of sexual assault on their campuses in the past five years.