Congress Addresses Campus Sexual Assault with CASA

Congress Addresses Campus Sexual Assault with CASA

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) has the bipartisan support of 34 senators and 27 representatives. If enacted, the law will put added pressure on colleges and universities to more effectively address campus sexual assault. Senate bill S.590 and House bill HR.1310 were reintroduced in early 2015 and both remain in committee.

The bill originated with a survey of colleges and universities requested by Senator Claire McCaskill and conducted by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight in 2014.

The findings show widespread:

  • Lack of knowledge about the scope of the problem
  • Failure to encourage reporting of sexual violence
  • Failure to investigate reports of sexual violence
  • Failure to comply with the law and best practices for addressing sexual assault
  • Lack of adequate sexual assault training of staff and faculty
  • Insufficient survivor services and support

CASA will address these shortcomings with a variety of mandates, and the prospect of stiff penalties will motivate administrations to better address the issue of sexual violence on campus. Failure to comply with the law can cost a university or college up to 1% of its operating budget, with fines ranging from $35,000 to $150,000 per violation. Currently, the only allowable penalty is loss of all financial aid, which has never been levied due to its impracticality.

The following is excerpted from the CASA Explainer page on cosponsor Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s website. The bill would:

  • Establish new campus resources for student survivors and support services: Every college and university would have to designate a Confidential Advisor to provide survivors with information and assistance.
  • Ensure that college and university staff meets minimum training standards to address sexual assault cases. Both survivors and accused students would receive notification when a campus decides to pursue a disciplinary hearing about an alleged assault within 24 hours of such decision being made.
  • Create historic transparency requirements: To provide an accurate picture of this problem, students at every university in America would be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence. Schools would be required to publish the results.
  • Set a uniform student disciplinary process across campuses: Schools would no longer be allowed to have subgroups like athletic departments handle complaints.
  • Require Memorandums of Understanding between schools and local law enforcement to outline responsibilities.

Keep Her Safe is supportive of all these measures and hopeful the bill will pass. From our perspective, the campus surveys will be especially helpful to parents assessing the schools our children are considering. Currently, there is no way for us to review data that indicates how pervasive sexual violence is on any specific campus. The survey results will be a tremendous help in determining the risk associated with specific school environments. When colleges and universities are required to collect this data and make the results public, administrations will become more motivated to create campuses that are safe from sexual assault.

By

Sheri Heitker Dixon is the founder of Keep Her Safe, a non-profit organization committed to making college campuses safe from sexual assault.

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