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Tell Congress to listen to college rape survivors and vote no on the Safe Campus Act

This morning the House Education and Workforce committee will hear witnesses in its hearing on campus sexual assault — and, unsurprisingly, not a single one of them is a student survivor with knowledge of the problem as it is experienced on the ground. One anticipated topic of discussion: the recently introduced Safe Campus Act. 

“Safe” Campus Act is a misnomer; the bill, which requires a victim who wants justice on campus to report her assault to the police, would actually make campuses dramatically less safe by preventing colleges from punishing a student for sexual assault unless the victim goes to the cops first. The bill is in clear conflict with Title IX, the 40-year-old anti-discrimination law that requires schools to act to prevent violence, respond to it after it occurs, and remedy its effects — one of which can be the traumatizing lingering presence of a victim’s attacker on campus.

For many survivors, reporting to the police simply isn’t an option; as we’ve covered many times here, survivors say, again and again, that were they required to report to the police, they simply would tell no one at all. Some victims, particularly those assaulted or abused by friends or former (or current) partners, don’t want to see their attackers in jail. Some states still don’t recognize men as victims of rape, leaving them without recourse in the criminal legal system. For undocumented student survivors, reporting to law enforcement can trigger deportation proceedings. And for student survivors from heavily policed and criminalized communities, interacting with law enforcement can feel like the furthest thing from safe. Who do you turn to for protection when the very people entrusted to do so are agents of violence against you?

For many student survivors, the answer has been their college. Because schools receiving federal funds are required to level the playing field among students of all genders, they’re obligated to support survivors — the vast majority of whom are women — and hold perpetrators accountable. The Safe Campus Act would change that. If the bill passes, schools will in effect be able to suspend a student who cheats on a test, sells drugs in a dorm, or beats up a classmate, but not one who rapes.

Survivors are fighting to oppose this dangerous bill. Sign their petition to tell Congress to vote no on the “Unsafe” Campus Act. They’re tweeting with the hashtag #UnsafeCampusAct.

Student survivors have told us time and time again that mandating they report to the police will keep them quiet and make their schools even less safe. It’s a shame that the House Education and Workforce committee isn’t interested in hearing from them.

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New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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