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Senators Request Additional Funding For Investigations Into Universities’ Handling Of Sexual Assault

In this photo taken Sept. 29, 2015, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. The massive year-end spending measure includes a bill encouraging companies to share cyber threat information with the government. Wyden called the bill “even worse” today, lacking meaningful privacy protections to ensure personal information isn’t passed on and doing little to prevent major hacks.

CREDIT: AP/Lauren Victoria Burke

Over 20 senators, led by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), sought $138 million in congressional funds to push campus sexual assault prevention forward.

The additional funding would go towards the two governmental agencies that most directly deal with handling complaints — the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Clery Act Compliance Team.

According to a letter by the Senators, the additional funding would increase the Clery Act’s team from 19 investigators to 30. The letter further explained that those 19 Clery Act’s team investigators, “are responsible for enforcement of the campus safety and crime prevention provisions of the Clery Act at over 6,000 colleges and universities across the United States.”

The letter continues:

“Given the extent of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, as well as the growing number of universities and colleges under investigation by the Department of Education for violations of Title IX related to campus sexual violence, there is a clear need for additional trained staff to enforce the laws currently on the books.”

At the moment, 210 colleges are being investigated by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for potentially violating Title IX and mishandling sexual assault cases on campus. The OCR currently takes on average close to 1,469 days to investigate a complaint. This number jumped from 379 days in 2009.

This is not the first time that government officials have come together to ask for additional funding for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or to advance the fight against campus sexual assault.

In January, Congress approved an increase of only $7 million for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

“While the budget allocation is less than what President Obama requested, this money will help ensure OCR can continue to respond to discrimination complaints in an effective and timely manner through additional enforcement staff,” said Dorie Nolt, Education Department spokesperson, according to the Huffington Post.

The letter, and its signatories, underscore the importance of additional funding as a form of protection for students on campuses. And the need to address campus sexual assault is acute: nationally, statistics show that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during her time in college, of those women less than five percent report their assault because they fear they will not be believed or that their complaint will get lost in the system. Additionally, one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college.

Vivian Nunez is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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