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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the cost of sexual assault on college campuses

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of the co-sponsors of a Senate bill targeting campus sexual assault, tweeted out an article Tuesday that defended her bill, writing that she agreed with the author that the cost of campus sexual assaults outweighs any cost included in implementing the bill.

Gillibrand’s Campus Safety and Accountability Act would fine universities up to 1 percent of their operating budgets if they do not comply with the legislation, which requires them to provide training for campus employees who handle sexual assault claims, among other things.

The article linked in the parent tweet was written by Hannah Zhang of the Roosevelt Institute (Franklin, not Teddy), a victim of sexual assault, according to Gillibrand (though Zhang doesn’t mention that in her article).

Zhang’s article is a response to critics who said that forcing a university to shift funding toward training for employees who handle sexual assault claims takes money away from academics. Zhang argues that “[s]topping sexual assault helps campuses to focus on academics, rather than hindering them from doing so,” since a victim’s education would be harmed by a sexual assault.

“Talking about money misses the point,” Zhang wrote. “The goal of CASA isn’t to fine universities. It’s to incentivize compliance. By investing in the resources now, universities create a safer educational environment for current and prospective students.”

What Zhang misses is the fact that since CASA only focuses on accusers, the probability that colleges and universities will see more lawsuits from accused students will outweigh the cost of the bill and possibly even the penalty for noncompliance. Already there are more than 30 young men across the country suing their universities for what they claim was a denial of due process, and if CASA passes, putting more pressure on universities to convict, that number could increase dramatically.

Zhang also tries to shame the U.S. by comparing the debunked “1-in-5 women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college” statistic to the global problem of violence against women. Except that 20 percent of college women have not been victims of sexual violence, so Zhang, and other CASA supporters, are trying to make the U.S. look as hostile toward women as countries like Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t even allowed to drive, or Pakistan, where "honor killings" are prevalent.

For her part, Gillibrand still has not answered questions about the lack of due process guarantees in CASA. Her spokesman, Glenn Kaplan, did reach out to the Washington Examiner to discuss the bill, but wouldn’t answer the questions provided to him as other senators’ offices had done.

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Ashe Schow

Commentary Writer
The Washington Examiner

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