New bill would limit sexual assault survivors’ options for Title IX

Recently, a bill was introduced to the House of Representatives called the Safe Campus Act. The U.S. bill H. R. 3403 will effectively negate Title IX if it passes.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in any institution that is federally funded. Many may believe that Title IX just affects athletics, but it is meant to prevent all forms of discrimination. All federally funded institutions are required to adopt Title IX and assist victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault are put in touch with the services that institutions offer by a Title IX Coordinator. That person’s job is to not take legal action against the perpetrator, just assist the student who reported the incident. If an individual files a complaint, the Title IX Coordinator acts at the administrative level, not the criminal level. A report could be filed with the police if the victim wishes.

“Title IX leaves the choice up to the individual that is reporting,” said Bob Wood, the Title IX Coordinator at Millersville.

In contrast, the Safe Campus Act takes all sexual assault reports out of the hands of the institution. The bill introduced by Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) states that if a victim wants to see action taken against the perpetrator, they would have to go to the police first. If a student reports to the university, the university would be obligated to go the police, even if the victim asked them not to. This means universities could not intervene and change a student’s class schedule or residence hall to avoid the alleged perpetrator. Only after the police investigation has concluded can the university get involved. Investigations of this nature take months to years to complete.

“The Safe Campus Act is forcing survivors to report to police,” said Leyna Gilleland, a student at Millersville that has started a petition against the Safe Campus Act.

Gilleland, a resident assistant, composed the petition after speaking to Wood on a personal matter. Wood informed her of the possibility of the Safe Campus Act passing and being implemented as a law. Gilleland did not wish to get the police involved with her case.

“It sparked something. I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” Gilleland said.

The petition is not just against the Safe Campus Act, it also asks representatives to support the HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act. This bill enforces institutions to build upon Title IX.

Gilleland is now on the eighth draft of the petition. Her next step is to upload it electronically so more people will have access to it, ultimately making it easier to sign. She also has plans to possibly feature it on the Millersville website. Courtney Escudero, a graduate assistant, has helped to promote Gilleland’s petition. The students will be presenting the petition to the Mid-Atlantic Association of College and University Housing Officers in the hopes that they will feature the petition on their homepage.

The Safe Campus Act is currently sitting on the agenda of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. It has yet to reach the Senate.

“We are trying to cut it off before it gets any further,” Gilleland said.

Gilleland and Escudero have teamed up to incorporate the movie, “The Hunting Ground” into the larger conversation. “The Hunting Ground” is a film that features victims of sexual assault speaking about their experiences when going to the university with their information.

Millersville provided funding in order for the movie to be shown on campus. The first showings started in fall 2015. Other showings of “The Hunting Ground” occurred in February for resident assistants. The movie will be played during resident assistants’ programs across campus.

There will be a campus-wide screening in the beginning of April. One of the women shown in the film will be speaking at Millersville on April 12.

The movie provides examples of universities that need to overhaul their procedures on dealing with sexual assault. Franklin & Marshall, Penn State and Temple University are a few of the schools listed as being under investigation for not providing enough services for victims of sexual assault. In total, 124 universities across the country are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for mishandling of sexual assault reports. Every institution that is under investigation can be found online.

One in four women and one in seven men will be sexually assaulted in their four years of college. False reports make up two to eight percent of all reports. Eighty-eight percent of those who are sexually assaulted do not report it to the university or police.

Millersville is the only university in PASSHE system that has a full-time Title IX Coordinator. Wood currently has ten trained investigators who assist him. President Anderson meets with Wood on a regular basis. Millersville is also responsible for any reports made at the Ware Center and for students studying abroad, both at Millersville and at a university abroad.

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