Save our Campuses: Pass VAWA

By: Dani Nispel,  Program and Policy Intern
National Council of Women’s Organizations

What could happen on college campuses if Congress doesn’t pass the real VAWA?

When students and parents are looking at colleges and universities to consider, they will have no information about how safe that campus is. They’ll probably read about how many students have internships, the percentage of students who study abroad, and the average GPA of athletes. However, they won’t know how many sexual assaults and instances of dating violence or stalking take place on the campus each year. They won’t know what type of sexual assault or violence policies the institution has in place, and they won’t be able to know the disciplinary consequences of assaulting someone on that campus. There will be zero transparency.

When students arrive on campus, there will be no educational or preventative programming. No one will be told what the school’s policy on sexual assault is. No one will be told where to go, who to call, or what to do if they are sexually assaulted. There will be no bystander education programs; no one will learn how they can help prevent sexual assault.

None of the campus law enforcers or administrators will be trained on issues of sexual assault or dating violence.

If a university chooses to inform their students about their policies or if an institution wants to provide preventative programming for students, they will receive no money from the government to do so.

This is a worst-case scenario. Unfortunately, if VAWA is not reauthorized, we could face many of these consequences.

I still have two more years at my university, and my sister will be starting college in the fall. This is real for me. If we don’t get a real VAWA passed before Congress leaves for the summer—something close to the Senate-passed version of VAWA (S.1925)—college campuses stand to be a much more dangerous place for me, my sister, and college students all across the country.

We stand to lose the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act and the Clery Act, which increases transparency. Community members, current students, prospective students, and parents would have no way of knowing statistics for a campus or what policies are in place.

More than that, the Senate bill goes even further to require that institutions have prevention and awareness education programs as well as disciplinary procedures for the perpetrators. Without these, colleges and universities can easily fail to ever talk about sexual assault and dating violence and never provide its students with any kind of information about these topics.

The Senate VAWA bill includes grants for institutions of higher learning, but stipulates that they must comply with regulations such as prevention education for all incoming students and training for campus law enforcement on issues of sexual assault and dating/domestic violence. Currently, colleges and universities don’t have to accept this money if they don’t want to follow the rules. However, without these provisions, there will be less money to help end violence on campus. Fewer law enforcement personnel and administrators will know how to handle violence against women and sexual assault. Fewer students will feel safe knowing their college stands against violence, and fewer people will know where to go for help.

To see a list of everything else we stand to lose without a real VAWA, check out The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. Learn more at 4vawa.org.

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