While members of Congress face gridlock, operating in one of the most partisan climates seen in recent times, women’s lives are once again on the line. Women are living in fear of being stalked or sexually assaulted and are enduring this abuse during one of the most transformative times in their lives — the college years. This epidemic is today’s tragic reality.
College campuses account for one in four sexual assault instances. Over 13 percent of women in college have reported being a victim of stalking during the school year, and one out of every five college women has reported being sexually assaulted. It is simple to talk about statistics. It is more difficult to remember that each number is a victim and represents a daughter, a sister or a friend.
We must understand that this abuse occurring on college campuses is not a numbers game. This violence is not a game at all. Something must be done to help prevent this abuse and to assist victims. That something is the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.
The SaVE Act is a provision included in the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Since 1994, VAWA has acted as a lifesaving resource for victims of domestic violence. Through education, prevention and response efforts, VAWA has been essential to empowering communities and reducing the incidence of domestic violence. In March of this year, I introduced the Senate VAWA legislation in the House of Representatives. Shortly thereafter, House Republicans introduced their own restrictive, scaled-back version of VAWA that removes provisions for Native Americans, immigrant women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In addition to ignoring these groups of victims, House Republicans eliminated the SaVE Act provision.
The SaVE Act specifically addresses the unique needs of victims on college campuses. In an effort to protect their reputations, some schools neglect to properly report incidences of violence. This act would aim to add additional protections for women by requiring schools to implement a recording process for incidences of dating violence as well as report the findings. In addition, schools would be required to create plans to prevent this violence and educate victims on their rights and resources so women would be better able to address their abuse. I applaud my colleague, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, for her leadership on this issue.
As with other provisions in VAWA, the SaVE Act is another commonsense protection that is mired in partisan politics. What Republicans have refused to understand is that sexual violence, dating violence and stalking transcend political lines. Republicans and Democrats alike feel the violent blow from a partner or the terrifying chills from being stalked. This abuse affects everyone.
We cannot wait any longer to pass the Senate version of VAWA and help protect all victims of domestic and dating violence. Education should never be tainted with violence, and as members of Congress we must do everything in our power to help remove these stains, not ignore them.
This article has also appeared in the Huffington Post.