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Gillibrand Steps Up Her Fight Against Campus Sex Assaults

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
?No other state is poised to lead in the high-tech economy of the future like New York.? - Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been stumping for federal legislation to address sexual assault on college campuses for more than a year. Today, ahead of a Senate hearing on the matter, she held a conference call to preview her testimony.

Gillibrand has been at the forefront of a nationwide effort to combat campus sexual assault and violence. Leading an expanded coalition of 16 bipartisan senators, Gillibrand has reintroduced a strengthened version of her legislation, which she claims would require accountability and transparency from higher education institutions.

The bill is called the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.  "Study after study shows that up to one in five women will experience unwanted sexual contact before they graduate from college, meanwhile two-thirds of students who were found responsible for sexual assault are still on their college campuses."

In the past Gillibrand has also cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing approximately 19 percent of undergraduate women have been the victims of sexual assault.

With campuses across the country under the microscope, Skidmore College was just one local college to update its sexual misconduct policy, which it did last August. Spokeswoman Andrea Wise said the safety of its students is the college’s top priority.   “This is a very serious issue that affects organizations throughout our country including colleges and universities, and Skidmore is not immune from that. We do take this matter very seriously and we are devoted to combating instances of sexual and gender-based misconduct on our campus."

Gillibrand has beat the drum on this issue through many legislative ups and downs. The Democrat insists college administrators must be held accountable.  "Too many schools just hide it under the rug. For example, when there was a survey asking schools 'have you reported any sexual assaults in the last five years,' 40 percent said they hadn't reported any. It doesn't mean there weren't any, it means they don't have a reporting structure that's working."

Also in 2014, University at Albany spokesman Karl Luntta said the school continues to pro-actively develop resources to assist and support all victims of sexual or relationship violence...  "...through our advocacy center for sexual violence, and numerous campus resources and through training of staff and first responders and students, we are committed to providing a safe environment in which all our members are treated with dignity and respect. UAlbany takes the strongest possible stance against sexual violence in all forms."

Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked private colleges and universities to adopt uniform assault reporting procedures. The word spread on social media employing the hashtag  #EnoughisEnough - and popstar Lady Gaga joined Cuomo's push for a set campus rape policy.

Gillibrand says there were 385 forcible sex offenses reported on New York campuses in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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