Editor's corner/ Over a cup of tea
Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year
for the State of Wisconsin
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and sororities) have both advocated for the legislation.
However, a coalition of 220 organizations working with sexual assault victims (organized by the National Task Force to
End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women; the national Alphi Omega Sorority; higher education officials; and
student activists have voiced their opposition to the bill.
The ultimate goal of a legislation on campus sexual assault, I assume, is not only to make campuses safe for women,
but to bring to justice perpetrators of this horrible crime. I understand that this proposed bill resulted because as of this
writing, 136 U.S. colleges have come under federal investigation for allegations that they mishandled sexual assault
and harassment cases on campus, and subsequently, the growing student activism on the issue.
According to the Office of Rep. Salmon:
"Colleges and universities are institutions of higher education. They are not investigatory bodies, law enforcement
professionals, nor are they a part of the judicial system established and guaranteed by our Constitution. The Safe
Campus Act mandates that institutions of higher learning follow the same laws as off-campus landlords, religious
institutions, private sector employers, and government agencies when dealing with the heartbreaking consequences of
rape and sexual assault in our society. The suggestion that university deans and professors are somehow better
equipped to end sexual assault than law enforcement, judges, and juries is bizarre to say the least."
Rep. Salmon is very much entitled to his opinion. But to me, requiring a sexual assault victim to report the attack to the
police first could actually silence the victim altogether. A police investigation of a complaint could take several weeks
before a school could begin its own inquiry. While we’re concerned with due process that benefits the perpetrator
mostly, I’m more concerned with the victim’s emotional, psychological and physical state right after an assault. At
present, a college/school can respond right away to a report of an attack regardless of whether or not the police has
been informed. It can act right away at suspending/removing a student accused of sexual violence on campus. And
student-victims are more likely to feel “at home” at the university, especially if the Sexual Assault Team is equipped with
the skills to handle the trauma that results from a sexual assault attack. I am not sure whether the police can handle a
victim with “care” right after an assault, because it’s interrogation time, laboratory workup, photography, and baring
intimate body parts which have just been molested.
Just thinking about the process a victim would undergo at a police station all at once in order to gather “evidence” would
make her less likely to report the assault at all. As Sen. Tammy Baldwin said in a meeting with UW Task Force on
Sexual Assault on the bill, “Sexual assault is such a major trauma. The investigation is ... re-questioning and
rehashing, and so you want to be sensitive to re-victimization.”
If this bill is enacted, colleges/universities/schools would have their hands tied, waiting for the police investigation
results, before they can suspend/remove from campus students/campus personnel accused of sexual
assault/violence. They also cannot act on any complaint if the same isn’t reported to the police. This is why the two
What’s wrong with Safe Campus Act of 2015?
H.R. 3403, dubbed Safe Campus Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. Salmon Matt (R-Ariz.)
on July 29, 2015. The bill would require the victim of sexual assault to report the attack to law
enforcement before the university can do anything to investigate it. It would also require
schools to use higher standards of proof in determining guilt of alleged perpetrator of the
Under the present gender equity law Title IX, which requires colleges to address reports of
sexual violence, victims have the right to choose whether to report sexual assault to their
school, law enforcement, or both. Schools are able to address a reported assault, regardless
of police involvement. But under the Safe Campus Act, a college or university could not take
any sort of punitive measure against an accused student unless the person reporting the
attack agrees to go to law enforcement first. Requiring early reports to cops would help
ensure that survivors have the evidence they need to pursue charges months after an
assault, Rep. Salmon said in the bill’s hearing. The North American Interfraternity
Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference (two umbrella groups for fraternities
umbrella groups for fraternities and
sororities, the National Panhellenic
Conference and the North American
Interfraternity Conference, have advocated for
this bill. They contend that due process must
be followed and that both accused and
victims have rights that should be protected.
To me, however, the victim’s right to justice
must be acted on immediately rather than
H.R 3034 will result in campuses less safe
for women. If the perpetrator of a sexual
assault crime isn’t removed right away from
campus, other women are in danger of
getting assaulted, too. I am all for making
sure that a woman who has been assaulted
has the right to file complaint with the
college/university she attends even before
going to the police, not vice versa.