Davis co-sponsors new sexual assault bill

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 08/04 2014 10:43PM

Updated 08/05 2014 10:37AM

CHAMPAIGN -- A congressman is supporting a new bill to protect sexual assault victims on college campuses. Pretty soon freshman at the University of Illinois will be registering for classes. At least one class isn't an elective. It's mandatory.

Molly Mclay works at the Women's Resource Center at the UI. She says, "Our university has been on top of this issue for a long time."

The class is called the First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education.

"Two words I would use to describe what we do are educators and advocates," says Mclay.

Studies show about one in five women will be sexually assaulted in college, but the crime is often under-reported. In some cases, the victim is blamed.

Joan Fiesta is a sergeant at the UI police department. She says, "We don't get a lot of reports because there's a lot of self-blame and a lot of shame that goes along with it."

Rodney Davis and other congressmen are pushing a possible solution in a new bill. Universities will have to make changes if they aren't following these guidelines. The bill calls for resources and support services for students and training for on-campus personnel.

Students at every university will be surveyed about sexual assault and schools must work closer with police. If the rules aren't followed, universities can lose funding. Mclay says she believes the UI is already on the right path.

"A lot of these things we have in place. We have universities contact us pretty regularly to ask us about the program."

The university already works with the UI Police Department and the Womens' Resource Center provides the help students may need.

Both the university and the police department say they're paying attention to the proposed bill. Congress did a study on sexual assault on college campuses earlier this year. It showed more than half of the schools surveyed didn't have a hotline for victims.

More than 70 percent didn't have a plan to work with police when the assault is reported. The Department of Education is investigating 55 schools for their handling of sexual assault claims, including the University of Chicago and Knox College.

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