SENATOR GILLIBRAND GOES TO SENATE FLOOR TO READ SURVIVOR STORY, URGE PASSAGE OF BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO FIGHT CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT
Washington, D.C. – To mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to pass the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act to combat sexual assault on college campuses.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:
“April is actually Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I rise to speak about two extraordinary young women who were accepted into their dream colleges and then, after they arrived on campus, were sexually assaulted.
“They tried to seek help from their school and they were blamed for their assaults by their school’s administrators.
“A couple of years ago, these two young women walked into my office.
“They didn’t have an appointment. They didn’t have any connections on Capitol Hill. They certainly didn’t have an expensive lobbyist to lead them in.
“Annie and Andrea had heard about my work to fight sexual assault in the military, and they simply wanted to help: the same crisis was unfolding on college campuses across the country.
“When they tried to report their rapes, they were not believed.
“They were actually retaliated against. For them, justice seemed impossible.
“But instead of doing nothing, Annie and Andrea joined together, and they created an organization called End Rape on Campus.
“They took their stories to college campus after college campus, to be heard, and to help other survivors like themselves, to make a difference, to achieve justice, to hold these schools accountable.
“Together, Annie and Andrea have helped many other sexual assault survivors file dozens of federal Title IX complaints for how their schools mishandled their sexual assault claims.
“These young women are changing lives. They are helping their peers find justice.
“They took a risk to raise their voices, and now we are closer than ever to passing a comprehensive, bipartisan piece of legislation, to make sure campus sexual assault cases are handled with the professionalism and fairness that all of our students deserve.
“We are closer than ever to passing a bill that would finally give our colleges and universities an incentive to solve the problem of sexual assault, rather than stay silent and pretend it doesn’t exist, because they’re worried about application numbers or press releases.
“I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to support this bipartisan bill, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.
“Because when surveys keep confirming that one out of five of our women in college are sexually assaulted before they graduate, we know we have more work to do.
We need to follow the example of Annie and Andrea, and speak out about this crisis.
“Mr. President, I’m going to use this moment to just tell you one story: the story of Andrea – what actually happened to her. She wrote a book – it’s called ‘We Believe You’ – with Annie, and it’s an incredible compilation of survivor stories. And it’s quite heartbreaking, and very tough to read, but it’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read.
“There are thousands of stories just like hers, and I have others to tell here on the Senate Floor, but right now I’m going to tell you Andrea’s, in her own words:
“‘After I publicly came forward as a survivor, I learned that the biggest triggers aren’t actually the nightmares of my assault, but the nightmares of the betrayals that I’ve had to survive.
“‘When the media tells your story, it feels like open season on your truth. It’s exposed to commentary, and a part of you loses control over it, and the vulnerabilities that you intended to share.
“‘When you tell your story to the media, you’re at the mercy of their portrayal, and the portrayal of others.
“‘I’ve been betrayed by friends who struggled to understand what happened to me, and to accept that the same person who put forth strength and composure could fall apart.
“‘I wish I could have said the right things to get them to understand that I was broken, and that my confidence was a lie to both of us.
“‘I’ve been betrayed by the university that I love so dearly, whose seal I wear around my neck, and whose quads and bricks hold pieces of me – pieces of who I was before, and of who I am today.’
“Mr. President, Andrea is one of many young men and women whose lives have been shattered by a violent sexual crime – and then shattered again by that second betrayal, when their schools chose not believe them, or to offer justice.
“These survivors deserve better.
“They need Congress to act. We have to do the right thing. We have to be their voice. We have to stand up for them. And the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act does exactly that.
“So please, let’s all do our jobs, and pass the bill.
“I yield the floor.”