Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand talks combating campus sexual assaults

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand met with local college students on Friday to discuss putting an end to sexual assaults on campus.

Sen. Gillibrand has introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which looks to provide transparency and accountability in regards to sexual assaults on college campuses by changing the way they’re reported and investigated.

She crafted the bill after getting input from survivors, colleges and law enforcement.

Union College played host to the round table discussion Friday night, and the senator’s message was loud and clear: sexual assault is not okay and will not be tolerated.

“We need to define this crime for the crime that it is,” she said. “Rape is a felony. It is a violent felony.”

Sen. Gillibrand led the discussion as she explained the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

“It’s a problem all schools have,” she said. “It’s not  unique to big schools, small schools, private schools, state schools. It’s everywhere, and it’s in society.”

At one point, the room fell silent as the senator riddled off statistics.

“This isn’t an example of a date gone bad or kids being kids,” she said. “A typical rapist is someone who will commit the crime over and over again.”

Gillibrand said her bill has bipartisan support. She hopes to have as many as 50 backers.

“I’m optimistic we will get time on the floor, and we’ll pass it,” she said.

Students, faculty and staff were in attendance. Officials from counties throughout the Capital Region also showed support at the discussion.

Schenectady County District Attorney Bob Carney said campus sexual assaults are a topic that needs discussing.

“So I think there’s a real healthy environment here to do positive things about this problem,” he said. “All these things are steps in the right direction to make fewer victims of these kinds of crimes.”

Gillibrand said her bill is a collective effort with input from students, colleges and universities, law enforcement and advocates. She said the survivors, though, are the ones who are truly shining.

“Their voices, their courage is truly what’s started this movement, and I’m inspired by them every single day,” she said.

Sen. Gillibrand said she is hoping for a committee hearing for the bill this summer and for it to go to a vote by the end of the year.

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