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Warner, Kaine call for increased funding to combat sexual assault

Additional resources would help enforce laws on college campuses

<p>Warner is also a co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which he said empowers students by strengthening reporting requirements, encouraging prevention and demanding transparency, consistency and accountability.</p>

Warner is also a co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which he said empowers students by strengthening reporting requirements, encouraging prevention and demanding transparency, consistency and accountability.

U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) recently joined a bipartisan group calling on Congress to allocate additional federal resources to enforce laws combating sexual assault on college and university campuses.

Warner is also a co-sponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which he said empowers students by strengthening reporting requirements, encouraging prevention and demanding transparency, consistency and accountability.

The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education is responsible for handling complaints related to campus sexual assault.

“Additional funding for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education would strengthen the process and support efforts to investigate and enforce compliance with laws addressing campus sexual assault,” Warner said in an email statement. “It’s clear that more needs to be done to protect students and end this epidemic on campuses across the country.”

Currently, institutions receiving federal funding are required to comply with the Title IX provision prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual violence, Warner said. The Office for Civil Rights enforces the provisions including reporting requirements for colleges and universities and providing victim resources.

The University Title IX Coordinator, Kelley Hodge, monitors the school’s compliance with Title IX regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance.

With increases in complaints coming from students, Kaine said it is imperative for the federal government to ensure enough personnel are in place to handle the requests.

“If approved, this funding increase would ensure that survivors of sexual assault on college campuses with concerns about how their school has handled their reports of sexual violence are provided resources … in a timely and efficient manner,” Kaine said in an email statement.

New resources would help reduce the backlog of Title IX complaints related to sexual assaults on campuses across the country, Kaine said.

“Our funding request includes the same amount of money the President requested to help fight this problem in his budget proposal for next year. Our hope is that Senate Appropriators will agree that these funds are necessary,” Kaine said.

Groups on Grounds such as One in Four and the Sexual Assault Leadership Council also play an active role in addressing issues of sexual violence.

One in Four has been active in lobbying and advocating for or against various legislature and proposals in Richmond and Washington D.C., Yash Shevde, third-year College student and president of One in Four, said.

“We use the government definitions for sexual assault and we raise awareness for existing government-based sexual assault prevention and survivor support resources, especially in the medical field,” Shevde said in an email statement. “We have received little to no direct support from government agencies.”

One in Four collaborated with their all-female counterpart, One Less, in their work in sexual assault prevention and survivor support. They also worked with Green Dot on bystander intervention training and the Sexual Assault Prevention Coalition for events such as Take Back the Night and Hoos Got Your Back.

“Right to Know” emails are sent to students following instances of sexual assault. The emails provide informational resources to the student population such as forms of assault, information on consent, reporting options and further resources and phone numbers.

“‘Right to Know’ reports serve to motivate us and remind us about what we stand for and how much work we still have to do going forward,” Shevde said. “However, we are cautious about measures that would help increase reporting rates while compromising the agency of survivors and their ability to control their story.”

Aside from increased funding, Kaine and Warner have backed other initiatives to address sexual violence on campus. Kaine said it is critically important to educate students about safe relationship behavior prior to graduating high school.

“When I met with U.Va. students in December of 2014, many of them told me that before college they never learned about sexual assault or what constitutes consent, and that sex education in secondary school was mainly focused on reproductive biology,” Kaine said. “Someone is most vulnerable to a sexual assault between the ages of 16 to 24, so we should find ways to instruct and train students on safe relationship behavior in high school so they are better prepared to deal with situations that may arise on a college campus.”

Kelley Hodge was did not respond to request for comment.

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