Public Advocate Letitia James, city council members and students rallied Monday at City Hall, announcing the introduction of a bill that would make more resources available to college students who have been sexually assaulted.
“College campuses are a significant source of the problem,” James said.
James said statistics show one in five college women are rape victims, and nearly half of them never tell anyone about it. The public advocate said college officials need to do more when a sexual assault case is opened, including harsher punishment for perpetrators and support for the victims.
“From this point on, we will no longer refer to them as ‘victims.’ They’re ‘survivors,’” James said.“Beyond praising them, we as government officials, as policymakers, must honor their courage and strength, by doing our part … by using the levers of government to help catalyze change,” James said.
The rally was held ahead of an oversight hearing between multiple City Council committees on women’s issues, public safety, higher education and civil rights.
“When I started college three years ago, parents, teachers and friends offered me advice,” said Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a Columbia University senior. “They told me how to balance academics and extracurriculars, how to study … but no one told me that that during my freshman year, two men would get me so drunk ... and assault me in their fraternity house. No one told me none of the others students there would know what to say or do to help me.”
Ridolfi-Starr is the lead complainant in a federal Title IX complaint against the university for mishandling sexual assault cases.
If passed, the New York Campus Safety Act would require schools to provide support services, develop prevention materials and help victims file claims with local law enforcement.