Mr. Speaker, I wish to address the House, Members of Congress, and the Chair about what I consider one of our most serious things that is happening in our country, and it has to do with sexual assault on our campuses, our universities, our colleges, and what is taking place there while students, our children, our grandchildren, go to these universities.
I want to recognize a group of individuals who have started a program, a cause is really the right word, that they call the 12th Woman. They are all members, students, former students of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
The 12th Woman is a phrase that is a takeoff on another phrase that that university uses, calling the 12th Man. I look at the 12th Woman as a team, 11 on a team, and there is one more.
It makes it 12, all 12 supporting each other in their cause to eliminate sexual assault on campuses, not just Texas A&M, but all the universities and colleges through the United States. So these remarkable ladies started using social media to see if other people, students, former students, had encountered sexual assault on campus and what happened and what didn’t happen after that was reported.
Then they formed this organization called the 12th Woman. Several of those members of the 12th Woman are here today watching Congress, and later today, they are going to go to their respective Members of Congress and talk about some of the things that are on their heart.
Constituents in the State of Texas, the reason for this request of time is that there are bad things that are happening on our university campuses. It happens because of a lot of reasons.
We are talking about a lot of people, a lot of kids, in my opinion, going away from home and spending time trying to get an education at one of our universities. I believe wholeheartedly that our universities in this country are the finest educational institutions anywhere in the world.
That is why we have people from all over the world coming to our universities. So I am going to start by telling some of their stories, things that happened to them, things that they have made public.
They have been bold to talk about the bad things that happened to them while they were in school. Mr. Speaker, it takes a lot for a crime victim, especially a sexual assault victim, to come forward and publicly talk about these things.
For the last, I guess, 30 years before I came to Congress, I was a prosecutor in Houston, Texas, and then I spent 22 years on the criminal bench hearing only criminal cases. And I have met, unfortunately, a lot of sexual assault victims who have come my way either when I was prosecuting their cases or as a judge.
It is tough, really, it is tough to make those statements public and come forward. But I want to read a few of these statements and these stories that happened to some of our ladies that they call the 12th Woman.
Abbie’s family was based around the values of Texas A&M that it instills in its students. She was raised by two Aggie alumni, and there was never a doubt about where she would ultimately attend college: it was always Texas A&M.
But like so many others, what should have been an outstanding experience, just turned sour. One night, while hosting a Christmas party at her own apartment, she was raped.
That is correct, Mr. Speaker, she was sexually assaulted. So when she woke up the next morning, she didn’t remember how a portion of that night ended.
Bruises, scratches covered her arms, her legs, and her clothing was ripped and torn. So doing everything that I think a rape victim should do, she had a rape kit conducted just a few hours later. The hospital nurse ended Abbie’s SANE exam—SANE stands for sexual assault nurse examiner—and she told her, ‘‘I will see you in court,’’ describing it as the most evidence that she had ever seen.
Abbie thought that she had a good case against her assailant. She was advised by the College Station Police Department to seek justice through the school and proceed to file her report through them.
So she filed a report. The university called a hearing.
The hearing began with what Abbie and her mom thought would be a fair playing field, until it became evident that she faced a series of well prepared attorneys at this hearing and she had no legal representation of her own. Not a single person at the university, the police department, or the hospital advised her that she had the right to retain legal representation.
During the hearing, she was, in her opinion, ambushed by her assailant’s attorney, who peppered her with a lot of questions. The fact that she had created a Facebook event for the party and offered accommodation to those who were drinking to crash at her apartment was called into question.
It was if the university panel thought that Abbie’s rape was her fault. Let’s get one thing straight, Mr. Speaker.
Let’s make this perfectly clear. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.
It is the fault of the perpetrator, and that is the way it should be, because it is the perpetrator who caused this. The victim shouldn’t feel like they did something wrong, but in our culture, sometimes they are put on trial.
Following the hearing, she was referred to a student counseling service, where she met an individual who had no training in working with sexual assault victims. So what was the point of talking to the school counseling if there was no training to handle these types of cases?
After a lengthy process and dealing with an investigative panel that she thought and believed was cold and uncaring, her assailant ultimately faced no consequences. Abbie felt betrayed by the university that she highly regarded.
Her assailant just went back to class. Abbie was forced to see the man who raped her walking freely around the campus, a campus where she should have felt safe.
Ultimately, she made the decision to graduate early, ending her time at Texas A&M prematurely. She feels like the university that she highly spoke of failed her.
She says: The university I speak so highly of has failed. Who knows if it failed before me.
There just wasn’t anyone to speak out about it. Abbie joins the 12th Woman to demand change, not at just Texas A&M, but colleges across the country.
Abbie says: It is time for Texas A&M to follow the Aggie code of honor. They should follow it themselves and unite with the sexual assault survivors to be an example of fearless change among the very best American universities.
Mr. Speaker, the Texas A&M code of honor says, ‘‘An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.’’ That is Abbie’s story, and I think we should thank her for making her story available for all of us.
Meghan was a fourth generation Texas A&M Aggie. Her decision to attend this prestigious school was never a question in her mind.
It was an amazing experience until things went bad. One morning, while serving as a tutor in the athletic department, a member of the Aggie football team, twice her size, exposed himself to her not 2 feet away.
He made sexual advances toward her, becoming aggressive. Terrified and shocked, she abruptly walked out of the room, trying to remain calm as he followed her.
Despite reporting the assault to her supervisor, something just went wrong. The remainder of her assailant’s tutoring sessions were not canceled.
And get this: the very next morning, Meghan’s assailant exposed himself to another tutor, becoming aggressive. Mr. Speaker, Meghan feels she did not get justice against her attacker.
She feels and tells me she was failed by a university that was not really committed to helping victims. She was scared in the process, scared to go back to work, terrified she might run into this individual again.
Before the hearing, the university claims she did not need a lawyer, she was not facing charges. She received no notice that her assailant, however, had hired legal representation, which he has the right to do.
Months later, Meghan’s assailant was found not responsible for exposing himself to both tutors. The panel stated that it appeared he had a skin condition and just couldn’t control himself.
A skin condition, Mr. Speaker? 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. Meghan has appealed that case, and did appeal that case.
She still believed the university would come to provide 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.
What that meant was, in the university’s eyes, she was removed from the remainder of the hearing and couldn’t be considered as a victim. The university supposedly has several systems in place to aid victims.
Texas A&M employs a victim advocate, but no one from the Title IX office contacted Meghan. She didn’t receive any information regarding what sanctions her assailant received, if any, and of course her assailant was allowed to be back on the athletic team.
Mr. Speaker, he stayed on the team until she told the media about all of this, and then he was later removed from the team and two misdemeanor charges were filed against him after she went to the media. Meghan felt abandoned by the university.
She thought the accused was protected due to his status. Texas A&M spends a lot of money on teal ribbons, according to her, for athletes to wear for sexual assault, and she says that the ribbon is not enough.
Universities must put the safety and care of sexual assault victims first. I agree with her.
She says: 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 our victims. She wants A&M to take the lead on this that is taking place on our university campuses.
I applaud Meghan for having the courage to come forward and tell her story to the world. Kirsten, she loved being at Texas A&M University.
She considered it one of the friendliest campuses, and enjoyed her time at one of the country’s finest educational institutions. After she returned from the winter break in the second semester of her freshman year, her happy-go-lucky bubble of college was shattered.
She was invited to hang out at her guy friend’s apartment, and was led to believe that several of their mutual friends would be there. When she arrived at the apartment, she realized that they were alone.
Her so-called friend proceeded to sexually assault her. The next day, her friends and sister pushed her to report the assault, but she didn’t want to. She was made to feel like the crime was her fault.
She told her resident assistant, who warned her that as an RA, she was required to report it. So a few days later, she received an email from the Division of Student Affairs inviting her to tell her story.
Time and time again, she had to relive the story in graphic detail almost directly after it happened. One thing about sexual assault victims that unfortunately seems to happen, when they first tell the first person about what happened to them, it is not going to be the last time.
Generally they tell people who are strangers, people they don’t know, and they have to tell that story over and over again, and because of that, they have to relive that experience. That is what happens when sexual assault victims have to come forward.
They go through that, but we should be understanding of that process. She says: If I hadn’t already been traumatized by this, the university officials re-victimized me, certainly cementing the damage to my mental health.
It is true that any investigative panel must understand what happened before drawing conclusions, but there is a way of doing that and getting that information without being insensitive. Kirsten says she felt as if the investigators were cold and devoid of empathy.
During the disciplinary appeals panel after the deadline to submit new evidence had passed, she was informed that the assailant’s fiancee, who wasn’t even present the night he attacked her, was permitted to serve as a witness. This witness served only the purpose to disparage Kirsten’s character.
Right before the panel began, she discovered that her assailant had, like some of the others, obtained legal counsel. Unable to have representation of her own, she ran to the Student Legal Services.
They refused to help her. They wouldn’t offer her legal advice.
They had no victim advocate there to speak to her or on her behalf. Kirsten, like many other victims, was alone, and she felt alone.
There was no other choice. The investigation continued.
At one point, the officials at the university asked her why didn’t she scream, as if it is Kirsten’s fault she was assaulted and raped. Kirsten says the university official in the investigation became increasingly irritated, and it was abundantly clear to her that that person viewed this as a waste of the university’s time.
Ultimately, the university concluded that Kirsten had likely been sexually harassed, but it was not up to the university to sanction her offender, because there was no impediment to her educational opportunity. Let me repeat that. Nothing happened because, according to them, there was no impediment to her educational opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, Kirsten fully believes, in the end, the panel turned her words, her desire to complete her education, and her commitment to her family against her. And they used her resilience and her loyalty to the university as a weapon against her to absolve themselves from any responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell Nikki’s story, as she recounts it. I have a total of six.
For Nikki, a semester’s worth of studying was about to pay off. Finals week was here.
One week was all that stood between Nikki and a short break before the next semester began— that is, until she was sexually assaulted. Following her assault, she reported to the Texas A&M clinic, creating even more stress on her.
Before she left the clinic, Nikki recalls the head physician came over to her and told her: Things happen for a reason. It was shocking to her, and it was traumatic. Following this traumatic experience at the clinic, she decided against engaging in the reporting process, feeling that the university was not sensitive enough.
She was aware of the process, because she sat on the university disciplinary appeals panel, listening to the appeals of cases similar to hers. She did return to a private hospital for a SANE examination—once again, sexual assault nurse examination—by someone who is qualified to examine, on a medical basis, sexual assault victims.
She returned home for a short break, where she says she had time to process everything. Mr. Speaker, deciding to come forward and report the sexual assault, as I have said, is overwhelming to these victims.
After some serious soul-searching, she began the reporting process. She told the story to the university officials, like so many others, over, and over, and over again.
After her shocking experience with her visit to the Texas A&M clinic, she says it felt like the reporting was getting nowhere. After weeks of attempting to report the behavior of the school clinic, she finally received a call back, but she was dissatisfied.
The school apologized, but no change ever occurred that she knows of. She says that: ‘‘After encountering three different women’s clinic physicians with such poor manners in a sexual assault case, it is clear to me that something is wrong at the institutional level.’’
It felt like she was the bad guy, forced to justify over and over again her reasons for reporting. Feeling attacked, she tried to withdraw her case.
Mr. Speaker, no victim should be forced into a situation where they feel more discouraged by reporting a rape than they do by staying silent. But it was too much.
Her grades started dropping. She started receiving Ds and Cs on tests.
She had never gotten Cs and Ds. Her professors questioned her excused absences, asking if she was in trouble, only forcing her to explain the situation more and more.
Upon finding out her assailant had hired legal counsel, she asked the university if she could obtain her own legal counsel. The university discouraged her from doing so and set a quick panel date.
Ultimately, her attacker was found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, dating violence, and sexual harassment. He was suspended for the remaining three semesters of Nikki’s time at Texas A&M.
She felt lucky because many survivors never receive, in her opinion, justice. Just in my opinion, if a person is guilty of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, dating violence, and sexual harassment, a three-semester suspension doesn’t seem to be much punishment, if any.
She says: ‘‘If I felt lucky my rapist, who was found guilty, was suspended for three semesters, one of which was already halfway over, then, clearly, something was wrong procedurally,’’ if that happened. Many times, so many other victims never receive any justice, and the question remains: Why is a three-semester suspension unheard of as severe punishment?
Mr. Speaker, something here is wrong. The reporting process for sexual assault should never continue to traumatize the victim at every turn. Nikki says: ‘‘The trials of the reporting process at A&M served to exacerbate an already traumatizing experience, leaving me feeling punished, trapped, and deceived.’’
She called on the university’s support program for survivors of sexual assault. It is an interesting note that, during this process, she received a cease and desist letter from a lawyer wanting her to tell the university it never happened, and to pay $10,000—I presume legal fees—to the attorney.
I think that is just outrageous that that happened. Sydney was at Texas A&M, the school she loved, a school she always wanted to go to and did go to.
It was her dream school. She was in the second semester at Texas A&M and, over a welcome weekend break, she was sexually assaulted.
Her assailant took advantage of her as she was unconscious, intoxicated, and unable to fend for herself. In accordance with title IX rights, she reported the rape.
Ninety-six days after reporting, she was granted an 8- hour hearing. She was told that any individual can serve as her support during the hearing, but was never advised to seek legal counsel.
Here are a few lines from her victim impact statement: ‘‘Over the spring break, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore.’’ Let me read that again:
‘‘Over spring break, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore. I consciously decided that this was too much for me to take. The waiting. . . . The constant paranoia. The fact that this boy did something to me that made me want to take my own life should speak for itself. I am an optimistic person. I excel at creating my own happiness. But no matter what I tried, I could not find the silver lining in this situation.’’
Mr. Speaker, Sydney did seek help. She was diagnosed with PTSD.
Her impact statement continues: ‘‘What happened to me 4 months ago has impacted me in the most tremendous way—academically, spiritually, mentally, physically, in how I handle my relationships. What happened to me has ultimately changed my life and my perspective of life forever.’’
Mr. Speaker, this is one of the rare cases, in my opinion, where there is some hope. Sydney did receive justice after going through all this physical and mental anguish and pain that she is going through.
Her assailant was expelled, given a no-contact order, and restricted from A&M property indefinitely. Is it the outcome that we would expect?
I would hope so. To put it into words she said: ‘‘The weight lifted off my shoulders when I heard that A&M chose to expel him . . . a weight that nearly smothered me for over 96 days. The fear of running into him on campus, the fear of seeing him around town, the fear that haunted and controlled my every move on campus, it was finally gone.’’
That, to me, is justice. It means being free from the fear of constantly being attacked. The rapist has given Sydney a life sentence of mental pain.
When defendants—I will call them perpetrators, predators, whatever you want to call them—commit an act of sexual assault, whether they are punished, suspended, go to prison or not, whenever that consequence under society is over, they go on with their lives. The victims don’t get to go on with their lives.
This is the type of offense where they think about it almost on a daily basis. That is why I say that it gives them a life sentence of pain and anguish and turmoil.
Sydney stands with her fellow Aggies, demanding justice for the victims of sexual assault. She says: ‘‘I wouldn’t be the Aggie that Texas A&M taught me to be if I remained silent after receiving justice for myself. I wouldn’t be the Aggie that Texas A&M taught me to be if I didn’t have the backs of these other Aggies, other survivors,’’ these other members of the 12th Woman.
‘‘Texas A&M taught me to be, if I was afraid, to stand here and be counted as another one of its one-in-five victims on college campuses’’ of sexual assault. Because of the time, Mr. Speaker, I am going to just relate one more story and make some comments about what we are going to do about these cases.
Kendra was a proud member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. Holding an executive officer title, she could not be prouder to attend the school and be part of this outstanding university that prides itself on respect for men and women in our military service.
She was on track to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army—that was, until the repercussions of her sexual assault at the hands of a fellow cadet sent her world, like the others that I have talked about, into an uproar. Texas A&M has an age-old tradition called the Aggie Ring Dunk.
She and her fellow cadets, one by one, dropped their new class rings into pitchers of beer. Then they started drinking until they surfaced with the gold rings appearing in the foam.
What should have been a fun night ended in tragedy. One of her fellow cadets, who happened to be engaged to someone else, her friend, walked her and her friend to the dorm room.
However, he followed her into her room, locked the door, and began assaulting her. Despite being weakened from the alcohol, she told him ‘‘no,’’ pushed him away, did everything that a lady, a victim in this case, should do to get him away from her.
At one point during the attack, he began suffocating her. She feared for her life.
Since her assault occurred in a campus dorm room, she was told that there would be a crime alert email sent out to the entire campus. That alert never went out.
No one was warned that a violent sexual assault on campus had been reported. Not a single A&M woman was any wiser.
Kendra says: ‘‘I believe Texas A&M endangered the lives of every single A&M student that came into contact with my rapist from the time the university knew’’ what he had done. She was then told that she would meet with the commandant of the corps, along with both of her parents, to address the safety and her lack of safety.
Suddenly, her parents were barred from the room, not allowed to provide any support for her. Rest assured, the general would have two assistants in the room with him.
Three against one, the 20-year-old cadet versus three high-ranking military officials, to discuss rape, rape against her. After much debate, the meeting never occurred.
Instead, the dean of student life met with Kendra and her parents. She described that meeting as that individual ‘‘implied that my report of the assault was causing her trouble, and I wasn’t helping anyone by coming forward. . . . And then there were several ways that I was requesting not to see my assailant, because we lived in very close quarters and had common classes and common activities.’’
Every single one of those requests by her was denied to keep him away from her. They offered to move Kendra’s parking spot; not the assailant’s.
They offered to change Kendra’s schedule; not the assailant’s. They offered to move Kendra’s dorm to another dorm, but not the assailant’s.
A no-contact order was issued, but, you guessed it, it was up to Kendra to leave if the individual showed up in a classroom or the building. Throughout the entire process, she said the university said that lawyers slow things down and aren’t necessary.
But Kendra obtained a lawyer that night. Shortly afterward, she received justice against her assailant.
As soon as her attorney met with school officials, the school quickly found a way to suspend the assailant until the hearing. Kendra’s case was decided by the university’s student conduct panel composed of three faculty members, and they found him responsible for 21 charges, including sexual abuse and sexual contact.
And he was expelled. It seems to me that because she hired her own private attorney she got the justice that she wanted and she deserved.
To this day, Kendra hopes university police will pursue a criminal case against her attacker. With the current backlog of DNA testing, it would take a year for her sexual assault kit to be analyzed.
Until then she will continue to speak up, be part of the 12th Woman, and ask for change for her beloved university and all universities to make them safer for all students. Those are six cases, individuals, young women, who went to college and bad things happened to them.
Their statements speak for themselves. In some cases they felt like the university helped them; some cases they don’t feel like the university helped them.
But to a person—I was starting to say to a man—but to a woman, they all want improvements on college campuses about what has taken place on our campuses. After all of these things came out in the public domain, the 12th Woman group met with university officials.
They presented a 12th Woman report outlining specifically what happened and what they want changed on their university, and really what should be changed on other universities. Mr. Speaker, I include the report in the RECORD.
Also, the school, Texas A&M, has responded. The president met with the 12th Woman, the ladies in this group, and had a meeting with them and has issued a comprehensive statement, as they call it, comprehensive reviews and actions and next steps by the president of the university.
Mr. Speaker, I include in the RECORD what Texas A&M’s response to all of this is.
Mr. Speaker, Texas A&M is not alone in the fight to provide victims a voice. As stated in one of the victim’s statements that I read into the RECORD, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that each year one in five women will be assaulted while in college.
One in five, 20 percent, in those 4 or 5 years. To me that is a staggering statistic.
According to End Rape on Campus, an American woman who attends college is more likely to be a victim of sexual assault than a woman who does not go to college. That means whatever you think it means—one in five.
Mr. Speaker, most of us in the House are parents. I am blessed to have three daughters and a son, and I have 12 grandkids, eight of which are girls.
Parents need to be aware of these statistics. One in five will be assaulted while in college as a student.
So what we want to do and what the 12th Woman wants to do is to stop these statistics and bring them down. I understand that at Texas A&M, the statistics—and I may be wrong—the statistics show that 1 in 14 are assaulted.
At the same time, institutions of higher education across the country, to me, do not have an incentive to acknowledge the problem publicly, to address it. We can understand why universities don’t really talk a lot about what is happening with crimes on campus.
They just don’t. It is about the image of the university and other things.
But it is not being talked about, I think, enough so that people are on notice that there is a problem. Here are some solutions to the chances of having an assault committed on campus and what we can do about it as public, Members of Congress, and what universities can do about it.
Some of those solutions are presented in the president’s report at Texas A&M. Many of the solutions are presented in what these victims, the 12th Woman, tell us about.
The current oversight—because there are Federal laws that talk about reporting all crimes, including assault— seems to affect encouraging colleges to underreport sexual assaults. I certainly applaud these young women for having the courage to come forward and tell their stories to the world.
This 12th Woman group, as I said, are here today, and they are advocating for change on the national level. It has nothing to do with Texas A&M. It has everything to with changing all of our universities.
It is a call to action. The 12th Woman is dedicated to bringing change to the way universities address sexual assault, not just at A&M, but across the country.
I will stand with the 12th Woman, Mr. Speaker, for their coming forward and telling their stories. These stories that you heard are not unique to one university.
They happen all over the country. So what are we doing about it?
Hopefully, I have shown part of the problem. Now it is up to us.
I am talking about Congress. Victims of crime on college campuses—or really any other place—sexual assault victims don’t have high-dollar lawyers from New York City to represent them.
Whether it is in a university setting or whether it is in a courtroom, they don’t. Some of them do, but most of them don’t.
As stated in these cases, most of them are alone when they are trying to resolve this problem before officials at the school. The United States Congress must be their voice.
How do we become their voice? We make sure there is the right legislation filed to protect our daughters and our sons when they go to our universities.
We have some legislation. The Clery Act is one of these.
We are going to try to improve it. So I am talking about three pieces of legislation.
These are pieces of legislation that are bipartisan. I will repeat that. It is bipartisan.
So it may not get a whole lot of notoriety because we are not fussing, fighting, and feuding with each other. Both sides agree.
I want to thank CAROLYN MALONEY from New York and JACKIE SPEIER from California—bipartisan—for working on these pieces of legislation. They will help combat sexual assault on campus, provide victims with a clear path to reporting to the universities, make sure victim advocates are ready and available to all students nationwide, and make sure that victims are able to access a qualified nurse examiner, a forensic examiner.
Let me mention the first one. It is called the Megan Act.
It is bipartisan. Megan Rondini lived in Austin, Texas.
She went to school at the University of Alabama. While she was a sophomore there, she was at a local hangout, a bar, and came in contact with a former student.
She was taken to his place. She was sexually assaulted, jumped out of the second story window at his place, and then the whole system seemed to fall apart.
She went to the hospital, but the person at the hospital didn’t really understand what the responsibility was of that medical test. The rape kit was taken, but nobody knows where it is.
It is gone. The police interrogated her, I think, because they knew who the accused was.
The parents were important people at the university. They didn’t have anything to do with the case and even talked about filing charges on her.
Then she went to the university and talked to a counselor. The counselor said: Well, I know the accused, and I am not qualified to talk to you about it.
But they didn’t furnish her with somebody else. So she didn’t get help from the university, didn’t get help at the hospital, and didn’t get help from the police department.
She had a lot of emotional problems and decided to transfer. So she transferred from the University of Alabama to SMU in Dallas, Texas.
Shortly after she transferred, Mr. Speaker, she committed suicide. She couldn’t handle it, all of these things going on in her mind.
So she paid; she got the death penalty for what happened to her. Megan Rondini could have been anybody’s daughter.
So we have filed the Megan Rondini Act. What does it do?
It does one thing specifically. It says universities and colleges must provide a SANE or a SAFE, sexual assault forensic examiner, to victims of sexual assault, or have one available for them nearby so that when they go to report this trauma medically they get treatment from an expert.
It is bipartisan legislation. We ought to pass this legislation, get it on the House floor and pass it to make our universities better.
I will say this about the University of Alabama, because of this thing that happened at their school, they changed a lot of things. Good for them that they changed a lot of their procedures.
I would ask the Speaker how much time I have remaining.
Okay. I will talk a little faster. I am from Texas. We talk slower.
I would like to get more than 17 minutes, but I understand. JACKIE SPEIER and I have filed a bill called the HALT Act, HALT Campus Sexual Violence Act.
I will give as many details as I can, Mr. Speaker. The National Institute of Justice estimates that 63 percent of universities shirk their already legal responsibility when reporting sexual assault violent crimes.
They are already supposed to report it; they don’t. This bill will make sure that they do report it.
It allows the Department of Education to issue financial penalties to people who don’t comply with Title IX. It increases the penalties up to $100,000.
It allows a private right of action by the victim on campus, and it requires public disclosure of a list of colleges and universities under investigation in violation of Title IX and the Clery Act.
It increases funding so that universities can do this. The HALT Act is a good piece of legislation.
The third piece of legislation by CAROLYN MALONEY of New York and me—it is pretty bipartisan. CAROLYN MALONEY from New York is a progressive, liberal Democrat.
TED POE is kind of a conservative guy from Texas. We are joining together to sponsor the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
What does it do? It provides, specifically, victim advocates in sexual assault cases to victims of sexual assault on campus.
It does a lot of other things, too. I hope we can get both of these on the House floor soon.
It also requires that there is one reporting mechanism. In other words, if you are complaining of sexual assault by a student, there is one avenue on campuses.
Other campuses, such as the ones that have the Corps of Cadets, you go through the Corps of Cadets. If it is against a faculty member, for example, you go that route.
If it is against an athlete, you go a different route. So we need to combine all of those in all of our reporting systems so that students know and are put on notice that they can go through one specific route.
These legislations do a lot of other specific things, too. Recently I was at Rice University. I had Members of Congress down there.
We did a sexual assault forum on campus. What happened?
Rice University is doing a lot of good things. One of the things they do is just make it real obvious that there are things that students can do. Mr. Speaker, I include this poster in the RECORD.
They post these posters throughout the university and restrooms telling them basically you are not alone and here is what you can do to educate and what you can do if a crime is committed against you. It is a good idea.
They have a protocol that I think many universities ought to look at. They have designed a student-based—really?—a program that all students are required to take when they are an incoming freshman.
It is not just a 1-hour course. It is several weeks long.
They educate students on how to deal with other people—relationships—that a lot of them have never been trained in doing. Mr. Speaker, I have been talking about, I think, a very serious thing that happens.
Here in Congress, we spend a lot of time talking. Right before I talked, you heard a lot of talking on both sides.
But we spend a lot of time talking about our national defense, and we spend a lot of money on airplanes, aircraft carriers, and our military.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. But it is defense spending to make us safe from foreign countries.
Should we not be as concerned about the safety of Americans in America and maybe refocus on their safety? I think we can and we should.
We need to make sure we get our priorities straight. I have known a lot of sexual assault victims in my career at the courthouse for 30-plus years.
I still keep in contact with them on a periodic basis. Sometimes they just call me to check in.
I have known sexual assault victims who, even after the trial and the person went off to the Texas penitentiary, committed suicide. Mr. Speaker, rape, sexual assault is a different type of crime than your car being stolen or your house being burglarized.
It affects the individual in the deepest part of their soul. Sometimes the offender tries to steal the identity, the soul, the self-worth of the victim.
Many of them feel that way for a long time. We in the House of Representatives have the responsibility to be the voice of sexual assault victims in our country and do what we can to make sure that they have due process, that the same Constitution that protects the rights of offenders—and I totally believe in those rights—protects the rights of people who are victims of crime.
Due process and justice must balance both of those so that we get the right decision for the right reason when these things happen to, primarily, our female athletes or female students throughout our universities. I admire these women who have come forward, being bold to make public what happened to them—bad things— and our response should be: We are on your side.
We are in it together. We are going to do what we can to make our great universities even greater and protect our young men and women on college campuses.
The 12th Woman. I would say, Mr. Speaker, don’t mess with the 12th Woman.
These are relentless, tenacious young women who want to take what happened to them and turn it around and make it something that we can prevent, make it a positive thing. My grandmother, who was the most influential person in my life—and I will close with this, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the time—lived to a ripe old age of 99.
She was the most influential person in my life, even more than both my parents, who are both alive. They are 93 now.
She told me that there is nothing more powerful than a woman who has made up her mind. I think these women have made up their mind, and we need to join them and be together in our calls to stop sexual assault on campuses and tell our universities and help our universities make those places safer because our American children and children from other countries that go to our universities are worth fighting for.
It is our job to do so, Mr. Speaker.
And that is just the way it is.