On October 27th, Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Ro Khanna were joined by delegates of colleges, universities and hospitals from all over New York to discuss campus sexual violence. As a board member of Students for Sexual Respect and Research Assistant with EMPOWER, I was able to attend the roundtable and press conference.

The two representatives are interested in forming policy to combat the issue of campus sexual violence. Congresswoman Maloney has sponsored and voted for a number of bills protecting the rights of survivors going back to the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Congressman Khanna was a professor at Stanford University during the Brock Turner incident. Since then, he has devoted some of his time as an elected official to campus sexual violence.

The main piece of legislation discussed at the roundtable was a national campus survey to look into the extent of sexual violence. Khanna emphasized the importance of a survey because schools, like Stanford, have reported rates of sexual violence around 2-3% when independent polls and surveys suggest that the rate is closer to 20-25%. Maloney also showed interest in a survey because data from it would be a good foundation for further legislation around sexual violence.

Another area of legislation that the Representatives seemed interested in was a bill exclusively about “stealthing”, or the act of condom removal during sex without the consent of the sexual partner. While the act of stealthing has been around since the creation of the condom, it has gained attention through the popular nomenclature. Representative Maloney seemed interested in dedicating a bill directly to stopping stealthing.

The roundtable was attended by the New York City Councilwoman for District 6, Helen Rosenthal. As the Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, Rosenthal expressed other issues concerning rape and sexual assault. She mentioned how a high ranking police officer came before the city council talking about sexual violence. He said that certain cases were not followed up on because the victim and perpetrator knew each other. Rosenthal mentioned that the city council has taken steps to prioritize training for sexual violence in the police department, but more needs to be done.

The event was also highlighted by a representative of SUNY schools at the roundtable. Recently, there was a broad survey that went out to all of the SUNY schools about sexual violence. Congresswoman Maloney pointed out that a national survey might mirror the the one put out by the SUNY schools. While the SUNY system has been ahead of the country in sexual violence prevention in many ways through New York’s Enough is Enough Campaign, it was mentioned that there are still several difficulties and areas of improvement. For example, The response rate to the SUNY survey was lower than intended, and she indicated that the SUNY schools need to move forward more with prevention in addition to victim’s advocacy.

Other important suggestions brought up during the roundtable were potential legislation around implementing similar requirements on training for students in high school and earlier as well as grants to schools to partner with local organizations and other types of support around sexual violence. Mandatory training for athletes and student leaders in colleges and universities was also suggested as a potential preventative method because they would then be able to be role models in the campus community.

Representative Maloney ended the event roundtable by telling the younger participants to “never shut up and always stand up for what you believe in”. She then said that an equal rights amendment in the United States Constitution is what would really have a lasting affect on the country. She suggested that perhaps the “Fearless Girl” statue on Wall Street (set to be taken down in February 2018) could be taken down after an equal rights amendment is added to the Constitution reflecting the ongoing fight for gender equality.

It was inspiring to see Representatives Maloney and Khanna not only care about the issue of sexual violence on campus but also look into what policies and steps to take next. It is unfortunate that the current presidential administration does not feel the same way. In addition, I, personally, find it refreshing to see another male, Representative Khanna, have a clear interest in the issue. I am optimistic that through all of its pitfalls Congress will do the right thing and pass further legislation to prevent sexual violence on campus and support survivors.

Adam KirschnerComment