WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in introducing legislation to support survivors of sexual assault on college campuses. The Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act, or S.O.S. Campus Act, would require every college and university that receives federal funding to have an independent advocate dedicated to campus sexual assault prevention and response.
“It is completely unacceptable that young people—particularly women—have to choose between getting an education and feeling safe. We must do more to end this epidemic of campus sexual assault and support survivors,” said Senator Hirono. “Right now, too many survivors of sexual assault and harassment are silenced, not provided adequate support or resources, and are unable to seek justice. This legislation will require colleges and universities across the country to better prevent sexual assault and provide survivors with medical treatment, guidance on reporting assaults to law enforcement, counseling, and information on their legal rights. I will continue fighting to combat sexual assault and ensure that survivors of these terrible crimes have the care and support they need.”
Sexual violence on college campus is largely underreported. A 2020 report published by the Association for American Universities (AAU) found that 13% of graduate and undergraduate students have experienced rape or sexual assault. Among undergraduate students, AAU found that 26.4% of females and 6.8% percent of males experienced rape or sexual assault. Previous studies have shown that more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur between August and November.
The S.O.S. Campus Act would require the independent advocate to conduct public information campaigns on sexual assault prevention and ensure survivors of sexual assault have access to:
Locally in Hawaii, many schools, but not all, are required to make confidential advocates available to students to discuss incidents of campus sexual harassment and assault and provide students with information about what resources are available to survivors. The S.O.S. Campus Act would expand this practice to more schools throughout the United States to make sure survivors have access to resources. In addition, 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.
In addition to Senators Hirono and Kaine, the S.O.S. Campus Act is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Senator Hirono is a strong advocate for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, and consistently works to advance legislation to protect survivors. She cosponsored the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which prevents perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration, and was signed into law earlier this year.