Gillibrand on Rolling Stone's UVA disaster: "I refuse to let this story become an excuse for Congress to do nothing"

The New York senator urged the judiciary subcommittee to tackle the issue of sexual assault "head-on, aggressively"

Published December 9, 2014 6:30PM (EST)

   (AP/Charles Dharapak)
(AP/Charles Dharapak)

During Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on campus sexual assault, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand addressed the ongoing fallout over a recent Rolling Stone report on the University of Virginia's handling of rape investigations, calling on Congress not to use the article's failures as an "excuse" to avoid facing the issue of campus rape. Gillibrand, an outspoken proponent of measures to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, expressed concern that Rolling Stone's negligent fact-checking could be used "as a reason not to believe survivors when they come forward."

"Clearly, we don't know the facts of what did or did not happen in this case," Gillibrand said. "But these facts have not changed: UVA has admitted they have allowed students who have confessed to sexually assaulting another student to remain on campus. That is an remains shocking."

The senator went on to note that the problem extends far beyond UVA, citing the 1 in 5 women who will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their undergraduate careers.

"[It] is painfully clear that colleges across the country have a real problem with how they are handling, or not handling cases of sexual assault on their campuses," Gillibrand continued. "I hope [this story] will not discourage other students from coming forward ... And I refuse to let this story become an excuse for Congress to do nothing and accept a broken system."

Along with Sen. Claire McCaskill, Gillibrand introduced a bill known as the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would increase campus resources for sexual assault prevention as well as penalties for schools who fail to accurately report statistics. The bill also requires colleges and universities to have a "memorandum of understanding" with local law enforcement, which would clarify jurisdictional disputes that often allow sexual assault reports to be cast aside.

By Jenny Kutner

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