Senate bill aims to curb college sexual assaults

Washington -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is introducing bipartisan legislation that would take aim at sexual assaults on college and university campuses by protecting and empowering students, and strengthening accountability and transparency for institutions.

The measure would also establish stiff penalties for noncompliance with the legislation's new standards for training, data and best practices.

"It's deeply troubling that for too many, a growing number of young Americans, the college experience now also involves sexual assault," said Rubio, R-Fla.

REVIEW: Read the proposed legislation

The numbers are startling. The odds are 1 in 5 that a woman will be raped this fall if she's going to college, according to a White House study. It also shows that fewer women, 1 in 8, report the crime.

The proposed legislation aims to help victims and hold schools accountable.

"I was raped when I was in college," says Kelly Addington. "We cannot combat sexual violence until we address it head-on."

Addington says she struggled to report the rape at the University in Florida.

"Unfortunately, I was not treated very well, I was part of that re-victimization process. I was told, 'Well, if you decide to report, if you decide to press charges, when you face a jury you have to talk about your sex life, your past history. You have to admit you drink alcohol.' Being a young student and not knowing what to do, I thought oh, I'm not supposed to report because this is my fault," she said.

Through the nonprofit group, One Student, Addington is helping colleges put better practices in place, so the victim isn't re-victimized.

So is Rubio under the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

Rubio is introducing the legislation that would require higher education schools to survey students anonymously about sexual violence they have experienced and make the results public.

Universities would also be required to have a confidential adviser for victims to talk with about the assault.

"It will provide information that will allow parents and students to understand the differences in colleges just isn't in graduation rates or cost, but also in the safety they provide," Rubio said.

INACCURATE: College campus crime reports don't include everything

The University of South Florida started its advocacy program for rape victims in 1992, and was one of the first in the country. But with this new legislation, there are still changes to be made, especially when training staff to help survivors.

"A lot of the focus has been on let's educate our students on these issues, but we also must educate our faculty and other employees as well," says Nanci Newton, director for the Center for Victim Advocacy & Violence Prevention.

USF Junior Rashard Perry helps train his peers that while men can be victims, they're also part of the solution. "If they ever see a woman being harassed or disrespected, you nonviolently intervene into the situation," Perry said.

Here are the number of rapes reported to USF police the past four years:

2013: 3 rapes

2012: 4 rapes

2011: 1 rape

2010: 7 rapes

Addington believes more victims will report attacks, if the new legislation passes.

"I think campuses will be very nervous about having that information be public at first, because the statistics will be high. That's because we're creating a culture to support survivors. We're creating a culture to help combat sexual violence, and when we do that you're going to see the numbers go up.

"It doesn't mean more sexual violence is happening on campus, it means we're creating an environment where people can talk about it. People can report it and get the services they need and deserve," Addington said.

If schools don't comply, they could be fined up to 1 percent of their operating budget, forcing colleges to be more transparent.

The number of sexual assaults reported on college campuses is on the rise: up 50 percent over the past decade, according to an Education Department report. The number has increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 3,300 in 2011.

Here are the universities with the highest number of sexual assaults reported from 2006 to 2012:

1. Ohio State University

2. University of Michigan

3. University of California-Davis

4. University of California-Los Angeles

5. Harvard University


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