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Lawmakers Widen Fight Against Sexual Violence Beyond Military

Lawmakers Widen Fight Against Sexual Violence Beyond Military

April 22, 2014 — Several lawmakers are developing bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing sexual violence in areas ranging from college campuses to child abuse and human trafficking, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the legislative push -- which follows high-profile efforts by Congress to stem sexual assault in the military -- comes amid a "confluence of conspicuous assault cases," such as those involving former Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of child sex abuse, and Florida State University football player Jameis Winston, a Heisman Trophy winner accused of raping another student (Steinhauer, New York Times, 4/21).

Sexual Assaults at Colleges

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) submitted a letter to the White House Task Force To Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which is scheduled on Tuesday to release recommendations on addressing sexual assault on campuses, the Huffington Post reports.

The letter suggested several strategies, such as requiring colleges and universities to conduct annual, anonymous surveys about sexual violence on campus. The lawmakers also recommend that the Department of Education designate someone to oversee federal policy on the issues of rape, sexual harassment and related misconduct at colleges and universities.

The letter also called for disclosure of federal investigations into how campuses have handled sexual assault cases, as well as the creation of an online, searchable database of Title IX and Clery Act complaints, compliance reviews and investigations (Kingkade, Huffington Post, 4/21).

Other Legislation

Other measures designed to address sexual violence include a bill by Sens. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would improve background checks for school employees and bar schools from pushing child abusers to other school district.

Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has proposed a measure that would restrict federal matching funds for group homes in the foster care system, which are targeted by people in the sex trafficking business. According to a recent Senate hearing, 60% of child sex-trafficking victims come from the foster care system.

Separately, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) spent last week in Mexico as part of their efforts to stop cross-border human trafficking. Klobuchar is proposing legislation that would require states to treat child prostitutes as victims, rather than defendants, and help enroll them in the Job Corps program (New York Times, 4/21).