An effort to end sexual assaults on college campus

Updated: 07/30/2014 11:09 PM
Created: 07/30/2014 11:00 PM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams

There is a new effort to end sexual assaults on college campuses. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is leading the charge to shop what she calls a growing problem.

Senator Gillibrand was joined by a bipartisan group of senators to announce a bill that would require colleges to hand out anonymous surveys about assaults on campus and publish the results. Schools that don’t comply would face financial penalties. While supporters say it won't end sexual assaults on campus, it would make it easier for victims to come forward and report crimes.

News10NBC learned one out of every four women on a college campus will be sexually assaulted.  One in five will be sexually assaulted off campus. The measure is aimed at putting a stop to it by making colleges and universities more accountable.

Caroline Paley, U of R Pre-college student, said, “It opened my eyes that any campus, you need to be careful.”

Brighton High School senior Caroline Paley is looking at colleges. When she heard reports of a sexual assault at New York University, she didn't worry about it, but when she heard it happened closer to home at Hobart and William Smith, she got nervous.

Paley said, “I said I'm a little nervous and my dad said it happens with friends, like it usually happens with someone you know. So you just need to choose your friends wisely and go to areas that you won’t be put in uncomfortable situations.”

It is a concern for parents and students. It is a concern that made it all the way to Congress. On Wednesday, more than a dozen U.S. Senators stood with sexual assault victims to announce the legislation. The woman, who says she was sexually assaulted at Hobart, spoke publicly.

“Anna” said, “No matter where you are in the world, no matter where you come from, no matter how you are raised, we all know what is right and what is wrong and what happened to me and so many other victims is wrong.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York, said, "If you are a young woman who attends college today, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted than those who don't. Think about that. It doesn't matter where you go to school.”

The bill would require campuses to provide advocates who would work confidentially to discuss options for victims and work with police to determine the best way to handle the case. Universities would not be allowed to sanction victims for things like underage drinking. The senators call for one uniform process for campus discipline in cases like this. Allie O’Malley is the executive director of resolve of greater Rochester.

Allie O’Malley, Resolve of Greater Rochester, said, “There isn’t a school out there that wants to believe their campus is unsafe or that their processes don’t work and what’s coming to light is there’s work that has to be done.”

O'Malley says, right now, 55 colleges and universities are under investigation for their handling of sexual assault crimes on their campuses, including Hobart and William and Smith. She strongly supports the portion of the bill to fine universities that don't comply with the law. She says it will make sure they're held accountable.

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