NORMAL — Attorney General Lisa Madigan convened a summit Tuesday at Illinois State University to address campus sexual violence and detail new legislation to strengthen responsiveness to incidents at colleges and universities.
Joining Madigan at the summit was keynote speaker Julia Dixon, a survivor of campus sexual assault while at the University of Akron and an ambassador for PAVE, Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. They were joined by advocates, school administrators, survivors and law enforcement officials, including ISU President Larry Dietz, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, The Center for Prevention and Abuse, the McLean County state’s attorney, the Normal Police Department, Illinois Wesleyan University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Augustana College, Western Illinois University and Parkland Community College.
“It is clear that the number of incidents involving sexual violence is still frighteningly high, and many survivors feel that the response of institutions is lacking,” Madigan said. “Colleges and universities have a legal and moral obligation to respond effectively and investigate allegations to the fullest extent of the law. We must make sure that every student of higher education in Illinois is provided a safe environment to learn.”
The summit was the second of three Madigan’s office is hosting around the state as the attorney general works to pass the Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus Act to increase protections for Illinois students and improve responsiveness to sexual violence by universities and colleges.
The summits address sobering statistics that show the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, but also the fact that incidents often go unreported and universities across the country have failed to investigate allegations properly.
Studies show one in five undergraduate women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education has said women between the ages of 16-24 experience the highest rates of sexual assault and rape among women, and about 6 percent of male undergrads become victims of sexual assault. And yet, a U.S. Senate survey last year of 440 four-year higher education institutions found more than 40 percent of the schools had not conducted a single investigation into incidents alleging sexual violence. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating approximately 100 schools for failure to comply with federal law in preventing, investigating and reporting incidents of sexual assault on their campuses, possibly jeopardizing Title IX funding for those institutions.
In conjunction with the summit, Madigan detailed House Bill 821, the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, which will set standards to prevent and respond to sexual violence at higher education institutions. The act will require educational institutions to:
- Develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence plan, including detailed incident reporting options and university response guidelines;
- Notify student survivors about their rights, including their right to privacy and what protections the university can provide to ensure the student’s health and safety, such as obtaining an order of protection, changes in class schedules or campus housing, and the availability of medical and counseling services;
- Provide a confidential adviser to victims to help them understand their options to report the crime and seek medical and legal assistance;
- Adopt a fair, balanced process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence; and
- Train students and campus employees to improve awareness and responsiveness to allegations of sexual violence.