Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., put the military's culture of sexual violence on the political map, and is now joining thousands of student activists across the country in tackling the sexual assault crisis unfolding on college and university campuses.
Gillibrand is calling for the federal government to invest $100 million to strengthen the enforcement of laws against campus sexual assault. As NPR News notes, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has just half the staff it did in 1980, but now receives three times the number of Title IX complaints. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who led the opposition to Gillibrand's military sexual assault reforms, is working with Gillibrand this time around.
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The two Democratic senators requested that the committee provide $2 million to employ additional staff members to work as part of the compliance team at the Department of Education. In addition, they requested $102 million for the department's Office of Civil Rights and about $5 million for the office to hire staff dedicated to investigating and enforcing Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence.
"America's colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault. It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe," Gillibrand said in a statement.
The problem of campus sexual violence came to Gillibrand's attention while she was preparing legislation to remove the prosecution of sexual assault from the military chain of command, according to a report from the New York Daily News. “We began to hear about the systemic problem on college campuses,” she said. The high number of assaults and lack of accountability from university officials was “just as startling."
“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted. And it is simply unacceptable that going to college should increase your chance of being sexually assaulted,” Gillibrand said.