Safe Campus Act endangers sexual assault victims

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Student Government representatives Natalie Engel (left) and Jenny McGinty (center) and Grace Gilker (right), Women’s Resource Agency director, discuss AR 13 on Oct. 27.

Photo Credit: Briana Vargas | Daily Texan Staff

While UT students have been fighting sexual assault through efforts like Not On My Campus, Texas representatives in the U.S. House have written legislation to make that fight much more difficult.

The Safe Campus Act, sponsored by Matt Salmon (R-Arizona), Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Kay Granger (R-Texas), would cripple university administrators’ abilities to discipline students who break university codes of conduct on sexual assault and rape in the name of expanding the rights of those accused. If passed, the bill would require that victims sign a written request that local law enforcement press charges within 48 hours of their assault for any university to open its own investigation.

Last night, Student Government introduced a resolution declaring its opposition to the Safe Campus Act. Hayley Cook, co-author and university-wide representative, said this legislation is key to showing that UT takes sexual assault, and the well-being of its victims, seriously.

“Most people I know do not report it to the police,” Cook said. “The only step they can feel comfortable taking is going to their university.”

The hard data backs up her claims. Studies and interviews repeatedly find that victims do not trust law enforcement to do them justice. Only 5 percent of attempted campus rapes are reported to police, and only 18 percent of those reports resulted in a conviction. Considering the massive social stigma victims face when they do report, it is no wonder that reporting is as low as it is.

Not On My Campus is among at least 28 anti-sexual assault movements on campuses across the country that have worked to counteract this stigma. The campaign has stated its opposition to the bill, citing experiences with victims who felt the police “punished [them] more than their perpetrator,” which can lower the number of reported rapes.

What makes this process all the more disturbing is that it is being pushed by the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee. The group, better known as FratPAC, ostensibly exists to “protect the fraternal experience.” The group recently hired former Senate minority whip Trent Lott to lobby for the bill. Lott resigned from his Senate leadership position after praising segregationist Strom Thurmond, and has since represented Goldman Sachs and Shell.

The group’s efforts are troublingly ironic. Research has shown that sorority women encounter sexual assault at four times the rate non-sorority women do. While the group claims to represent Greek women, its actions seek to make their lives more dangerous.

Fraternity and sorority members across the nation have been speaking out against the bill. Finance senior Lee Lueder, UT Interfraternity Council president, called group’s actions “embarrassing” and said he does not support the legislation.

“Sexual assault is the biggest issue for us,” Lueder said. “More red tape makes it harder to get anything done.”

National fraternity leaders who are worried about their organizations’ reputations on sexual assault would be wise to follow Lueder’s lead. They should be working to address rape culture, rather than making the issue harder to tackle by artificially deflating the numbers of crimes reported.

What is clear is that the Safe Campus Act will make colleges less safe. While we can take pride in our University’s progress in combating sexual assault, their work could be destroyed unless this bill fails. 

Chase is a Plan II and economics junior from Royse City. Follow him on Twitter @alexwchase.