The two umbrella groups have increased their public visibility on the issue of campus sexual assaults and have held hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill. Given the presence of fraternities, in particular, in high-profile sexual-assault cases and accusations over the past several years, the groups hope to play a major role in reducing campus assaults.
Their request follows a letter the two Democrats sent to the NPC last week arguing that the Safe Campus Act would “stifle reporting and force victims down a one size fits all pipeline against their wishes.”
Gillibrand and McCaskill are proposing another solution, and they hope to enlist the Greek organizations to support their own bill. Salmon, for his part, has not yet taken a position on the Senate legislation.
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which has 34 Senate cosponsors including 12 Republicans, would require colleges and universities to designate a “Confidential Advisor” who would assist victims, provide information on the different reporting options available to them, and guide them through whatever process they choose.
That choice, Gillibrand and her staff say, is key. Their legislation is in part inspired by the successful partnership between the Ashland, Oregon, police department and Southern Oregon University, which developed a similar “Campus Choice” program that saw twice as many victims decide to report those crimes to the police in its first year.
The confidential adviser, Gillibrand said, would lay out options for students rather than, as the Safe Campus Act requires, forcing them to go to the police first. “[The adviser can] say, these are all your options: You either go through the school system or you go through law enforcement. In the school system, all they can do is accommodations—the highest penalty is kicking [the assailant] out—but if they don’t have evidence, they will do nothing and the best thing they can do is change your class. So you better get that rape kit,” Gillibrand said.
Allowing victims to make the choice to approach police officers on their own schedule can be hugely beneficial, Gillibrand said, both to the victim and to the police. “If you lose her on that first day because you’ve intimidated or scared her or made her feel guilty, you’ve lost your witness,” she said.
But even in cases in which victims decide not to go forward with legal proceedings, Gillibrand said, reporting can still give authorities the opportunity to link similar cases. And that, in turn, can lead to reduced sexual violence on college campuses. “If there’s two other victims, [the initial victim will] say, ‘Oh, my God, so it wasn’t me; it wasn’t that I was drinking; it wasn’t my fault.’ … They’ll be more inclined to say, ‘Of course I will testify against him,’” Gillibrand said.