SAFER combats sexual violence after re-evaluation of CASA

Kaitlyn Scoville, News Writer

Last Monday, Students Active For Ending Rape issued a press release applauding the United States Congress for re-evaluating the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

SAFER is a nonprofit national organization that focuses on raising awareness and bringing justice to interpersonal violence on college campuses.

According to SAFER’s website, interpersonal violence is considered an umbrella term.

“[It] refers to sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, as well as other acts of aggression and violence motivated by prejudice and hate,” the website said.

The CASA bill, section 856, states that college campuses must work hand-in-hand with local authorities about interpersonal violence as well as make information public about how the campus handles those situations.

“Each institution must establish a campus security policy with respect to: (1) assisting survivors; (2) training individuals who are involved in implementing the student grievance procedures or who are responsible for interviewing survivors; and (3) establishing a uniform process for student disciplinary proceedings relating to any claims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking or a sexual misconduct policy violation against a student,” s. 856 stated.

S. 856 also notes that the Department of Education would be required to release results of a biannual campus-wide survey about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act was reintroduced to Congress by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

SAFER policy director Danielle Christenson said it is important to note bipartisan efforts in the passing of CASA.

“[They] have joined forces to introduce and pass vital legislation that will strengthen sexual assault policies on our nation’s campuses,” Christenson said in the press release.

CASA addresses acts of interpersonal violence and was introduced to the Senate on April 5, 2017.

“The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would (1) Establish New Campus Resources and Support Services for Student Survivors, (2) Ensure Minimum Training Standards for On-Campus Personnel, (3) Create New and Historical Transparency Requirements, (4) Increase Campus Accountability and Coordination with Law Enforcement and (5) Establish Enforceable Title IX Penalties and Stiffer Penalties for Clery Act Violations,” the press release stated.

UW Oshkosh associate vice chancellor, Title IX coordinator and director of Equal Opportunity, Equity & Affirmative Action Shawna Kuether said the University handles interpersonal violence issues in more ways than just taking legal action.

“We see how we can better address sexual violence from more of a proactive and caring standpoint,” Kuether said. “A lot of it is about communication, how much stems from getting out there, getting leadership involved and making sure people understand and know our policies because it’s such a sensitive topic.”

Kuether also said if the bill passes and UWO integrates it, the University will enforce what they already do to inform the campus community about what they do for sexual violence.

“We come from a standpoint of education around this, whereas police might not come from that standpoint,” Kuether said. “Police will look at it very differently.”

UWO Interim Dean of Students Buzz Bares said that when there is a report of sexual violence on campus, the investigation remains unbiased.

“As soon as a report comes forward, we will do an immediate no-contact, and that’s a mutual no-contact,” Bares said. “Part of what is required by law is both the respondent and the complainant should have the same rights and protections until there is a finding.”

Bares also said there is a strong relationship between the University Police and the Oshkosh city police.

“I think that relationship has improved significantly over the years,” Bares said. “If there is a student involved in an incident, they do inform us.”

Kuether said it is important to emphasize the advocacy and action the campus takes for victims of interpersonal violence.

“Right now we’re doing an assessment of our policies, our practices,” Kuether said. “Just taking a look at all the things we do around sexual violence and any sort of sexual misconduct on campus to see how we can better address sexual violence from more of a proactive and caring standpoint.”