It’s a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill as lawmakers work to address sexual violence on college campuses.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education announced 55 colleges and universities are under federal investigation for their botched handling of sexual violence complaints under Title IX — the law requiring gender equality on college campuses.
A Senate committee met Thursday to discuss the growing problem with representatives from the DOE and those on the front lines.
"When I was an 18-year-old college freshman, I entered into what would soon be an abusive relationship with another student,” said John Kelly, a sexual assault survivor from Tufts University. "I only wish I had known Tufts was under investigation when I began going through my campus’ traumatizing judicial process."
"We know that colleges and universities are retaliating against students for filing complaints, discouraging other survivors from filing complaints, delaying investigations for months or longer,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said. "We have to look both for the deterrents the adequate penalties and fines that accrue, setting up structures with colleges so that they can prevent this."
Earlier this year the DOE threatened to withhold federal funding from Tufts University after finding it violated federal law when it failed to investigate assault claims in 2010. Lawmakers will explore other ways means to hold institutions accountable and plan to include sexual assault prevention as part of their reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Last week, the White House announced new steps to fight sexual violence on college campuses, following up on an administration report released in early April. The new rules include revisions to the definitions of “hate crime” and “rape” and other requirements aimed at strengthening prevention efforts.