Kuster: We Can’t Afford to Roll Back Protections for Victims of Campus Sexual Assault
(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) reacted with concern to reports that President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, has given thousands of dollars in donations to a group that advocates increasing the burden of proof for survivors of sexual assault. DeVos has given $10,000 in donations to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) which, Politico reports, “has sued the administration to raise the standard of proof for victims of sexual assault in university administrative hearings contending it is unfair to the accused.”
“At a time when sexual assault and sexual harassment is pervasive on both college and high school campuses, it’s deeply concerning that President-elect Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education has supported a group that looks to make it more difficult for victims to come forward,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Both women and men are at a high risk of being sexually assaulted while in college and they often face barriers to coming forward and reporting incidents, putting others at risk of attack by repeat offenders. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in our country and we can’t afford to roll back protections for survivors of campus sexual assault. Our focus must be on working to foster a system that supports victims. I’ll continue to advocate on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and work to grow the dialogue about how we can change the culture of sexual assault in our nation.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be victims of sexual assault while in college. Additionally, repeat offenders are a major concern on college campuses: 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts that qualify as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeated rapes. Further, 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to police.
Congresswoman Kuster is a longtime cosponsor of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, which would require schools that receive federal funding to strengthen prevention, education, and reporting measures. She has been a champion for victims and survivors of sexual or domestic violence. She joined with 17 other Members of Congress to read on the House floor Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers. Congresswoman Kuster and her colleagues took this action a step further by describing their own personal experiences – or those of their loved ones – involving sexual assault to demonstrate that Emily Doe is not alone, and that steps must be taken to stop sexual violence in our society.