It was an amazing experience, until it wasn’t. One morning, while serving as a tutor in the athletic department, a member of the Fighting Aggies football team twice her size exposed himself to her not 2 feet away, making sexual advances toward Meghan and becoming aggressive.
Terrified and shocked, she abruptly left the room, trying to remain calm as he followed her. Unbeknownst to Meghan, her assailant had done the same thing to another tutor just hours before.
Mr. Speaker, Meghan feels she did not get justice against her attacker. Instead, she tells me, she was failed by a university that was not totally committed to protecting victims.
Meghan was scared of the upcoming process, scared to go back to work, terrified she might run into this individual again. Before the hearing, the university claimed she did not need a lawyer; the assailant wasn’t facing any criminal charges.
So she didn’t hire a lawyer. But she received no notice that her assailant had hired a lawyer.
Months later, Meghan’s assailant was found not responsible for exposing himself to both tutors, with the panel stating it appeared he had a skin condition and simply couldn’t control himself. The response she received was nothing short of appalling.
The school said: Sorry, Meghan, that you were offended, but there is nothing else we can do. So she appealed the case.
She still believed in the university and that the university would provide some justice for her. At the appeals hearing, she was informed that the charge against her attacker had been downgraded from sexual exploitation to sexual harassment; therefore, she was removed from the remainder of the hearing.
Doesn’t that seem odd, Mr. Speaker? Also, no one from the university title IX office ever contacted her.
She never received any information regarding what sanctions her assailant received, if any. Of course, Mr. Speaker, her assailant was allowed back onto the football team.
Meghan felt abandoned by the university, and she thought the accused was protected due to his special status. As a former judge, I agree with Meghan that universities must put the safety and care of sexual assault victims first, make it a priority.
Together with CAROLYN MALONEY and JACKIE SPEIER, we have introduced several pieces of bipartisan legislation to end sexual assault on campuses. First, the Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, introduced by Congresswoman CAROLYN MALONEY, does many things, including establishing a mandatory victim advocate on campus and ensuring assault situations like Meghan’s do not occur.
Second, the HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act, which will be introduced this week by Congresswoman JACKIE SPEIER and me, makes sure that the universities do not shirk their legal responsibilities when responding to sexual assault crimes. Texas A&M is not alone in this fight to provide a voice for victims.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, each year one in five women will be assaulted while in college. That is a staggering statistic. Mr. Speaker, Meghan said it best: ‘‘A&M has a chance to be fearless on every front and to be fearless in the face of such horrible things that are happening to victims.’’
I applaud Meghan for having the courage to come forward and publicly tell her story to the world. Other victims who have been suffering in silence have been inspired to come forward and rally the cause, forming an organization called the 12th Woman, a group of determined women dedicated to stopping sexual assault on our university campuses.
This is not a question of loyalty and pride in Texas A&M. It is a call to action. The 12th Woman is relentless in bringing change to the way universities address sexual assault not just at A&M, but across the United States.
Mr. Speaker, Congress needs to listen to Meghan and her band of sisters and do what is necessary to make sure our universities are safe from sexual assault on campus.
And that is just the way it is.