Udall, Heinrich Urge Agencies To Hold Colleges Accountable For Underreporting Sexual Violence

SENATE News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with 29 other senators sent a letter to the Departments of Education and Justice urging the agencies to ensure colleges and universities receiving federal funds adhere to new requirements intended to help prevent sexual violence on campus and increase accountability for students’ safety.

These regulations, which went into effect July 1, 2015, were included in the Violence Against Woman Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) as amendments to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), a key campus safety law. VAWA also required that schools focus on prevention of these crimes, instituting education and training programs for faculty and students, and provide students with clear information about their rights under the law. The letter was led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

A review of federal campus safety data from more than 11,600 colleges and universities shows that 91% of the schools reported no incidents of campus sexual violence in 2014. The reporting directly conflicts with data on sexual violence from the Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which shows one in five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, strongly suggesting these institutions are not creating an environment where students feel comfortable reporting and vastly underreporting these crimes.

The Senators are requesting that the Departments evaluate how colleges and universities are falling short in complying with the VAWA reforms to the Clery Act, reinforce their obligations to students under the law, and clarify what steps these institutions can take to prevent gender-based violence on campus.

“July 1st, 2016 marks one year since these reforms went into effect, and while the Administration has taken strong steps to implement these regulations, we are frankly concerned that schools are not doing enough,” the Senators wrote. “Failure to fully adhere to these reforms puts women, and all students, nationwide at risk-and the Departments of Education and Justice have a critical role to play in ensuring the protections laid out in VAWA are fully put into practice… To that end, we request that you evaluate how schools are complying with these reforms and clarify what steps can be taken by schools to prevent gender-based violence on their campuses.”

Senators who signed today’s letter are: Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A copy of the letter is available here.

 

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