WASHINGTON – A bipartisan congressional task force created last week wants to draft legislation that would take on sexual violence in colleges, in elementary and high school and in the military, saying the stigma of being a victim must be eradicated and police training and data collection need improvement.
At a news conference Wednesday, Democratic Reps. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire and Jackie Speier of California, and Republican Reps. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and David Joyce said the task force will propose legislation to address sexual assault. April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
There are six areas of focus for the task force: K-12 education, college campus safety, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, and law enforcement training.
Speier said the fact that the force is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans shows how important both parties consider the issue of sexual violence.
“The stigma that surrounds this issue has kept many survivors in the shadows, and I shared in that silence for nearly four decades,” said Kuster, although she did not elaborate on her experience. “But it is long past time to shatter the silence.”
Kuster said she recently met with six women in New Hampshire and each had a personal story of being sexually assaulted.
Joyce said that he thinks of his two daughters in working to end sexual violence because “it can happen to anyone.”
Congress last year had passed the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act. The legislation for the first time established federal statutory rights for victims of sexual assault, including the right to have a rape kit. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
“It’s not an issue that is Democratic or Republican,” said Kuster spokesman Nick Brown. “Everyone is interested in resolving this.”