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In Wake of DeVos Announcement, Hirono Leads Efforts to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault on College Campuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced legislation to help provide support for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses. The Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act) would require colleges and universities to ensure that an independent advocate is available to support survivors of sexual assault on every campus. Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a controversial decision to re-examine Obama-era campus sexual assault policy on campus.

“Last week’s decision by Betsy DeVos threatens to reverse important progress on Title IX protections that have been implemented to combat and prevent sexual harassment and assault on our nation’s campuses,” said Senator Hirono. “While this decision is concerning, I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to hold the Trump administration accountable and provide the necessary leadership that ensures our students have access to learning environments free from sexual harassment and discrimination in schools.”

The S.O.S. Campus Act is cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-Calif.) introduced a companion version of the bill in the House this week.

The legislation would require every institution of higher education that receives federal funding to designate an independent advocate for campus sexual assault prevention and response. This advocate would be responsible for ensuring that survivors of sexual assault – regardless of whether they decide to report the crime – have access to:

  • Emergency and follow-up medical care
  • Guidance on reporting assaults to law enforcement
  • Medical forensic or evidentiary exams
  • Crisis intervention, ongoing counseling and assistance throughout the process
  • Information on their legal rights

Local Rape Crisis Centers and other community-based organizations are currently providing many of these services in communities and on campuses around the nation. The legislation recognizes the importance of these partnerships by requiring that universities either consult with or partner with these organizations to ensure that survivors get the services they need. The advocate will also conduct a public information campaign on the campuses.

Senator Hirono remains a strong advocate for Title IX and safeguarding protections for students at our nation’s campuses. Earlier this year, she introduced the Patsy T. Mink Gender Equity in Education Act which provides additional resources for schools, school districts, states, and institutions of higher education to fully implement the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (commonly referred to as “Title IX”).