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Senators seek to curb campus sexual assault

By KIMBERLY HEFLING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Colleges and universities could be more accountable to rape victims under legislation introduced Wednesday by a bipartisan group of senators.

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., led the effort, with lawmakers from both parties saying they have heard too many stories of campus assault and bungled cases. More than a half dozen senators stood with campus sexual assault victims on Capitol Hill as they announced the legislation.

At least two senators - Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Mark Warner, D-Va. - said that as fathers of college-age daughters, they want campuses to track the problem more effectively.

"There is no reason or excuse to demean, dismiss or deny the problem, and accountability has come," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Added Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa: "Sometimes a victim is treated worse than the person who committed the crime."

The action on Capitol Hill further escalates the dialogue in Washington on an issue long handled locally. Earlier this year, a White House task force on campus sexual assault recommended a series of actions schools should take, and the Education Department took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of schools facing federal investigation under Title IX for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations.

This bill would require campuses to designate advocates who would confidentially discuss available options with victims and to develop an agreement with local law enforcement over how such cases are handled. It would also increase penalties for universities that did not comply.

To encourage victims to come forward, the bill stipulates that schools will no longer be allowed to sanction a student who reveals a violation, such as underage drinking, in "good faith." It also would require schools to survey their students to learn more about the scope of the problem and to use one uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings, not singling out groups such as athletic departments to independently handle such cases.

"We're not going to legislate away sexual assault, but we can make it better for the survivors coming forward, and this bill is an incredible first step," said Annie Clark, from the advocacy group End Rape on Campus.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, said the bill has some good ideas, such as defining a confidential victim's advocate. But he said it takes a pretty heavy-handed approach and potentially adds more intervention to already confusing and overlapping federal laws that govern the way colleges and universities should handle such cases.

"We desperately want to do the right thing, but we need to know what that is, and we need enough flexibility to meet the needs of each individual, unique case," Hartle said.

The joint work on the bill by McCaskill and Gillibrand represents a departure from a legislative battle earlier this year when the two senators took differing views on how best to deal with military sexual assault. They were also joined at Wednesday's event by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio said he doesn't believe the bill would completely solve the problem, but it would advance the issue.

In a gridlocked Congress with limited working days left on the calendar, the bill faces a daunting path to be passed.

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Foxy Fox August 03 2014 at 7:11 AM

All felony crimes should be handled by local police departments and not the Keystone Campus Cops.

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1 reply
iceq111457 Foxy Fox August 03 2014 at 9:35 AM

AGREED. Too many cover ups.

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fscharer August 03 2014 at 8:49 AM

When are these people going to learn that we don't need more laws, all we need is to enforce the ones we already have on the books. All this will do is put another law on the books that, in time, will be ignored just as all the ones that are now. Let the campus police patrol the campus and let the local and state police handle the law enforcement.

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gotigersthomas August 03 2014 at 10:00 AM

Pretty sure FSU in on the list when he handling or lack of handling of rapist football quarterback. He should be in jail now. I feel felony crimes should be handled by state police departments. I don't trust local police departments in the cases of huge universities that bring millions into the cities. Even the local police have covered up the FSU mess.

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Mike August 03 2014 at 4:20 PM

I hope there is also a provision for trying to put an end to sexting at the online schools.

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billcdaly August 03 2014 at 12:05 PM

Still not sure a new law is needed, just enforce those that are already on the books.

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lklex August 03 2014 at 4:53 PM

Isn't it time to end the flagrant sex discrimination under federal law that compels only male Americans to register their bodies for a potential military draft or face five years imprisonment and loss of federal funding for college tuition (including Pell grants) for noncompliance? Clearly, that egregious de jure sex discrimination should be relegated to the dustbin of history. The female members of Congress who condone such sexism are hideous, selfish hypocrites.

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1 reply
rreggaeredkc lklex August 03 2014 at 6:17 PM

The ACA now prevents women from paying higher premiums as they were required to do for years! All of my 59 years. As an aging American, I am no longer required to pay a higher premium for pre-existing conditions which all humans will develop sooner or later. Remember for hundreds of years women were not considered competent to serve.

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Tin Manne August 03 2014 at 2:18 PM

Yes, more laws, more debate and good intentions will stop something. It has been shown many times perpetrators of violence and crimes stop doing what they might do that is violent or criminal. Stupidity, ignorance and animal urges in humans are never stopped by laws.

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gotigersthomas August 03 2014 at 10:03 AM

Only Democrats in DC want to make extra laws to make people abide by laws that are already of the books. The 50 state governments should be ones stopping their universities that don't abide by the law.

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sundanceruhlen August 03 2014 at 7:24 PM

Maybe if you actually PUNISH your budding college students for taking drugs or getting drunk at parties, not to mention PUNISH them for acting like drunken two-dollar ****** for attention, this wouldn't be an issue. Take some responsibility, and do something about your idiots of any gender, America.

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wjs27skeet August 03 2014 at 6:48 PM

OK Lets just make it illegal to commit RAPE. Oh wait a minute- it already is. Looks like these politicians need a campaign issue to rally behind. How about doing something that will help these young women who are prey. Lets just make it legal for these women to carry a concealed weapon.
Self protection is a basic human right.

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