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Legislation introduced in Congress last week would redefine sexual violence, broadening the array of crimes reported due to the Clery Act, which requires all colleges and universities to record and publish the crimes that occur on and around campus.

On April 14, Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, a bill that would amend the Clery Act. If passed, colleges would have to report not only sexual assault but also “intimate partner violence,” a term that includes stalking, dating violence, sexual violence and domestic violence, Security on Campus director Alison Kiss said.

The bill would also mandate that colleges educate students about intimate partner violence and provide greater resources for sexual crime prevention as well as victim support.

The proposed amendment, also known as the SaVE Act, would “increase the transparency of reports” of intimate partner violence, Kiss said.

“There is a lack of understanding on college campuses about what sexual violence is,” College senior and Vagina Monologues director Maya Tepler said. She hopes that this act can force Penn to acknowledge the reality of sexual violence on this campus “in a way that it has not had to before.”

Like Tepler, College junior Joe Lawless — vice president for Training and Education of Penn’s One in Four — stressed the importance of a “continued discourse about sexual violence” on college campuses. He added that education about sexual violence empowers all students.

Although it has yet to pass in either the House or Senate, Kiss explained that this proposal is a result of the collaboration of a number of advocacy groups and that Security on Campus has worked closely with Sen. Casey on this amendment.

Maureen Rush, vice president for the Division of Public Safety, called Sen. Casey “a big advocate for women’s rights,” maintaining that no matter which way the bill goes, the DPS would be “positioned to follow and respond to it.”

Penn has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to victim support, Rush said. Resources currently available include DPS’ Special Services — which helps students get medical help and file a police report — while the Penn Women’s Center and CAPS provide advocacy and support.

The Penn Women’s Center currently works with DPS, the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs and student groups to offer antiviolence training sessions and educational workshops. Associate director of the Penn Women’s Center Jessica Mertz announced that next year they will be “rolling out a brand new awareness campaign,” that will be stressed during New Student Orientation.

Though sexual violence tends to be a highly underreported crime, the Penn community has seen an increase in the number of women seeking support following sexual assault, Mertz said. Kiss explained that where there is a higher number of women reporting sex crimes, it means that the community has provided an environment in which they feel safe in doing so.

Mertz hoped that the SaVE Act would support the Penn Women’s Center as they continue their outreach and education efforts.

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