BY COUNCILMAN RORY LANCMAN
Last year, New York’s public colleges took a stand against sexual violence when both CUNY and SUNY adopted “Enough is Enough,” the sexual assault prevention policy spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Now, every public college student in New York is protected by clear standards against sexual violence. But thousands of other students at private colleges remain unprotected. The governor’s proposal to enact uniform policies for rape and sexual assault at all college campuses in New York will ensure that every student in our state has the same rights and protections from sexual violence.
Less than five percent of college rape victims report the attack, and only 16 percent receive support from a victim services agency. Women often don’t come forward because they have seen what has happened to others who did report, and they aren’t willing to put their trust in a system that is clearly broken.
An aspect of Title IX requires colleges to adjudicate reports of sexual violence. Most colleges do this through disciplinary boards, which are more often used to handle plagiarism, underage drinking and roommate conflict. They aren’t necessarily equipped to handle these cases and they often fail at doing so. The Department of Education has opened investigations at more than 110 colleges and universities for their handling of sexual-violence complaints, including Columbia, Pace and Hunter. These investigations are spurred by boards that fail to acknowledge victims, or that blame victims because they had been drinking, were wearing ‘revealing’ clothing or because they knew their assailant (despite the fact that most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows).
Rather than taking a piecemeal process to solving this crisis, the “Enough is Enough” proposal tackles the problem head on. It will ensure that our state’s 1.2 million college students are protected with comprehensive and uniform procedures and guidelines, including affirmative consent and access to law enforcement. The plan also ensures that students reporting sexual violence will be granted immunity for certain policy violations, including drug and alcohol use, and will require comprehensive training for administrators, staff and students on sexual assault and consent.
Gov. Cuomo’s proposal will help combat the scourge of sexual violence on campuses. His leadership ensures that every college in our state will have a comprehensive sexual assault policy that protects victims and helps them come forward.
Rory Lancman represents the 24th Council District in the New York City Council.