Recently proposed legislation by a bipartisan coalition of Senators plans to place tougher penalties on colleges that mishandle sexual assault cases. The intended result would levy millions of dollars in fines on colleges that fail to follow both the new regulations and previous laws already in place.
The legislation would require nationwide surveys of students and an increase in financial penalties for violating existing regulations. New roles would also be created for victims’ advocates on campus while calls for more disclosure by the Education Department regarding its ongoing Title IX investigations.
Sexual assaults are notoriously underreported with fewer than 1 in 20 victims ever reporting the crime to authorities. The student surveys in the bill aim to discover whether the low rate of reported assaults at a campus is due to the college preventing sexual violence from occurring or due to students not feeling safe enough to report the crimes.
In order to make sexual assault victims feel that they have someone they can talk to, college will have to establish confidential advisers to be the main contacts for victims and to coordinate services and provide guidance.
A group, featuring students who were dissatisfied with the way their schools handled their assault cases, staged a demonstration outside of the Department of Education headquarters on July 15. During the demonstration, the protestors delivered a petition calling on the DOE to enforce their civil right to freedom from sexual violence. The petition and demonstration were organized by women involved in the Know Your IX, a campaign aimed at educating college students on their rights under the gender equality law Title IX.
This piece of legislation will also call for more transparency in the DOE by forcing the publishing of names of all schools with pending investigations, final solutions and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX.
The bill aims to add peace of mind and a greater feeling of security to college students and victims across the country, including Boston College. If the bill is able to make it out of the Senate and to President Obama’s desk, college administrators will find it harder to keep sexual assault under the radar and unreported.