(Hartford, CT) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) released a comprehensive report calling for a College Sexual Assault Bill of Rights. The report was the culmination of a series of statewide roundtables Blumenthal hosted on campus sexual assault at seven colleges and universities across Connecticut. More than 450 college administrators, faculty, students, advocates, and law enforcement officials participated in the roundtables, which were organized with the help of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS).
“The resounding cry on Connecticut campuses is for stronger rights and robust programs to stop the spreading scourge of sexual assault,” Blumenthal said. “Listening to Connecticut survivors, campus leaders, law enforcement officials, and advocates, I'm determined to fight for a bill of rights – assuring campus sexual assault survivors that we're on their side in preventing and punishing this contemptible crime. A bill of rights will help change the culture – end blaming the survivor for what she was wearing, whether she was drinking, where she went, and who was with her. Without more trust in basic rights, survivors won't report, and sexual assaults won't be punished – or deterred.”
Blumenthal added, “Sexual violence is a societal issue, not a women’s issue, and more must be done to protect students on campuses nationwide. I look forward to continuing these discussions at the federal level, and working with my colleagues in the Senate to develop proposals to strengthen existing laws and enforcement tools.”
The report details what steps must be taken at the federal, state, and campus level to ensure that more survivors are empowered to report their assaults and to provide for expeditious, fair adjudication of reports. The Bill of Rights, which is outlined in the report, would be extended to all students, and is the result of Blumenthal’s discussions on Connecticut campuses, receiving comments and concerns from students, advocates, faculty, and administrators. The Bill of Rights the report calls for would give all students the:
- Right to a Safe and Secure Campus
- Right to a Fair and Impartial Investigation
- Right to Confidentiality
- Right to Clear Notice of and Access to Available Services
Blumenthal is working with Senate colleagues to develop legislative proposals that would codify these rights at the federal level. These proposals would also establish accountability standards for schools and provide resources for schools to meet these standards.
“Senator Blumenthal's ongoing work to address sexual violence, accompanied by the series of campus roundtable discussions throughout our state, are helping to shape a historic commitment at the highest levels of government to turn the tide of campus sexual violence. We are grateful for his leadership and the time he has devoted to listening to survivors, students, and victim advocates,” said CONNSACS Executive Director Laura Cordes.
“Sexual assault on campus is a growing problem, one that the Board of Regents for Higher Education takes very seriously. We must all do our part to see that there are programs and tools in place to raise critical awareness of its occurrence, and of its absolute unacceptability. For that reason, we support Senator Blumenthal’s efforts, and we will do everything we can to cooperate with his office as it seeks to expand programs across U.S. campuses, and to codify the Bill of Rights,” said Dr. Gregory Gray, President of the Connecticut Board of Regents.
“We applaud Senator Blumenthal for taking on this difficult topic,” said Darcie Folsom, the Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy at Connecticut College. “Accessible and approachable education is critical to preventing sexual violence. With widespread student involvement, Connecticut College is a leader in this work, and is proud to serve as a model for other colleges.”
“Senator Blumenthal’s proposed College Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights provides victims with essential rights,” said Laura Sheehan, the Associate Vice President for Marketing, Media, and Communications at the University of Saint Joseph. “It is reflective of the University of Saint Joseph’s proactive approach to safety on campus. At USJ we focus on providing a safe campus environment, empowering students to report incidents, and offering a full range of support services. As the only undergraduate women’s institution of higher education in Connecticut, we appreciate the Senator’s commitment to this critical social issue.”
“Fairfield University was proud to sponsor one of Senator Blumenthal’s recent Student Roundtable Series on Sexual Violence on College Campuses. Fairfield fully endorses Senator Blumenthal’s College Sexual Assault Bill of Rights Report. It is entirely appropriate that the report should be framed as a bill of rights. Sexual violence is an issue that goes directly to the heart of the individual’s fundamental and civil right to be free from all forms of harassment and violence. For students, particularly female students, this is a call to eradicate this behavior so as to promote this most fundamental and precious of rights,” said Dr. Thomas C. Pellegrino, Vice President for Student Affairs at Fairfield University.
From January to April, Blumenthal hosted roundtables on campus sexual assault at the University of Hartford, Southern Connecticut State University, University of Saint Joseph, Fairfield University, Western Connecticut State University, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, and Connecticut College. The impetus for the statewide discussions was the January release of the White House Council on Women and Girls’ report that found nearly one in five women (22 million) and one in 71 men (1.6 million) had been victims of sexual assault.
In April, Blumenthal sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations calling for more funding for a Department of Justice campus sexual assault grant program that Connecticut College used to set up its successful Sexual Assault-Free Environment Project, which is highlighted in the report. That same month Blumenthal sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education calling for new federal funding to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at colleges and universities.
Blumenthal will host a series of roundtables on campus sexual assault in the Senate with U.S Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) starting May 19. The roundtables are open to the public and will be held in Washington, D.C. More information on the roundtables can be found here.