Washington, DC -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) held a press conference today to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at stopping colleges and universities from retaliating against survivors and witnesses of sexual assault. The Campus Sexual Assault Whistleblower Protection Act would provide student survivors and witnesses with crucial protections so that they can report sex crimes without fear of retaliation from investigations into minor misdemeanors or honor or conduct code violations.
Over the past year, a disturbing trend has been identified at several higher education institutions, including Baylor University and Brigham Young University, in which university authorities are enforcing honor or conduct code violations instead of supporting campus sexual assault investigations. As a result, countless survivors and witnesses have been pressured into remaining silent for fear that the university would conduct devastating investigations into their private lives, revoke their scholarships, and even expel them.
“Universities have a duty under Title IX to protect their students by preventing and addressing sexual assaults on campus. Students who witness such a crime should never fear reprisal for bravely coming forward. It is beyond outrageous that students have been forced to suffer in silence after a sexual assault for fear that their university will punish them for drinking a beer or dating someone of the same sex,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14). “Congress must take action to ensure our colleges and universities stop blaming and shaming survivors while leaving sexual predators free to victimize countless others. My bill will require them to live up to this federal mandate instead of bowing down to rape culture.”
In addition to Democratic and Republican support, the bill is supported by attorneys and advocacy groups working on behalf of survivors and witnesses.
Attorney Charles W. Dunn, of Brazil and Dunn, said, “Creating a safe environment to receive reports of sexual assault is the most important step we can take to reduce campus rape. This legislation is a critical step to ensure that no sexual assault victim is too afraid to report to college or university officials the horrific ordeal they have suffered."
Maddy Moore, a campus organizer for Know Your IX and a senior at Georgetown University, discussed Know Your IX’s support of the bill and the impact that support for survivors and witnesses can have on college campus sexual assaults.
“The Campus Sexual Assault Whistleblower Protection Act recognizes that no survivor deserves to face retaliation after an incident of violence. Specifically, it ensures that any student that reports violence will not face retaliatory actions for violations of the honor code, including consumption of drugs or alcohol. We know this approach works,” Moore said. “At Georgetown, I’ve seen firsthand how our policy, similar to this one, has helped survivors feel more comfortable coming forward. But these protections shouldn’t be limited to a few select institutions like Georgetown. They should be enjoyed by survivors across the country, regardless of where they go to school and regardless of their identity, past sexual history, and consumption of alcohol or drugs.”