The Campus SaVE Act (S.83) is a piece of legislation near and dear to my heart. This week it was reintroduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) in partnership with Security on Campus, Inc. (SOC). I was honored to be one of many individuals and organization able to provide input on the legislation, which will change the way many universities handle cases of sexual violence.
SOC is a great non-profit born out of the horrific rape, torture and murder of Jeanne Clery in April 1986. This tragedy occurred in Jeanne's dorm early in the morning at the hands of a fellow student who entered her room and ended her life. Her parent's heart break turned into an organization that has since enacted the Jeanne Clery Act, the Campus Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights, and several other pieces of legislation that are the foundation of how universities address crimes on their campuses.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to SOC, which reached out to me when I first publicly exposed the University of Wisconsin's (UW) handling of my rape. They informed me of one last avenue of justice available to me: filing a civil rights complaint with the Department of Education against the UW. If I had never taken this crucial step in seeking justice my story could not have been used to highlight the severe indifference in which institutions deal with the sexual violation of college women. It may seem odd to be thankful for such a fact, but it is now the most powerful part of my story. Truly no level of the justice system was there for me, nor has it been there for many women before me or since.
Seven years to the day, I was sitting at the University of New Hampshire listening to Vice President Joe Biden condemn men who commit sexually violent crimes against the women in their lives and communities. This speech had followed U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's reprimand of universities that, at best, failed to provide consequences for sexual harassment and violence on campus and, at worst, further traumatized victims who spoke out.
A ground-breaking research article called, "The Sexual Victimization of College Women"(Fischer et al, 2000) first awakened our nation to the reality that sexual violence affects 1 out of 5 women while on campus and that less than 5% of these victims ever report the crimes done against them. Despite these staggering statistics universities have yet to seriously address this criminal epidemic affecting so many of their students. Instead some universities have added to the horror of campus sexual violence, such as Eastern Michigan University, who lied about the death of a student to her parents when she had been raped and murdered in her dorm room.
My allusion to a personal anniversary at the start of this post refers to my own campus sexual assault, which was committed by two fellow members of my crew team at the University of Wisconsin. Sitting in the VIP section for the Vice President's speech, along with our nation's top attorneys and nonprofit leaders on sexual violence, reaffirmed my calling to advocate for fellow survivors of sexual assault. As I listened to the denunciation of institutions and individuals perpetrating violence against women like me, I received my justice. Now it is my turn to help others achieve it....
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