Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a “Women for Hillary” meeting in Milwaukee, Sept. 10, 2015. (Photo: Darren Hauck/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton pledged to tackle campus sexual assault during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa on Monday.
“Rape is a crime wherever it happens,” Clinton said, addressing the issue for the first time since launching her 2016 campaign. “Schools have an obligation — a legal obligation and a moral obligation — to protect every student’s right to get an education free from discrimination, free from fear.”
Over the past couple of years, a number of high-profile cases have made campus sexual assault the subject of unprecedented media attention, revealing a widespread, deeply complicated issue and prompting a variety of responses from school administrators and state lawmakers to Congress and the White House.
The proposals Clinton outlined — including more comprehensive on-campus resources for survivors, fairer investigative and disciplinary processes for both accusers and the accused, and increased preventive education — echo those outlined by President Obama as well as Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and others who support the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA).
CASA supporters, such as the nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, praised Clinton’s commitment to the kinds of policy changes included in the pending legislation.
“We are pleased that Secretary Clinton also supports increasing survivors’ access to care, requiring fair campus adjudication, and strengthening programs that educate students and prevent violence on campuses,” Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN’s Vice President for Public Policy, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We encourage Congress to pass CASA and to help ensure that survivors of sexual assault find justice.”
Clinton is the first 2016 contender to talk about the issue on the campaign trail, but she might not be the only one for long. Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently been teasing a last-minute run for the Democratic nomination, joined President Obama last year in calling for increased awareness and condemnation of campus sexual assault with the “It’s On Us” campaign. The author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, Biden has long been an outspoken advocate for better practices in investigating and prosecuting cases of rape and sexual assault. Last week, he and Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a $79 million collaboration between the federal government and New York City to process untested rape kits nationwide, and he’s slated to talk about the “It’s On Us” campaign at an upcoming event in Ohio.
Clinton was scheduled to attend two Iowa events on Monday given by “Women for Hillary,” billed as a grassroots organization of female supporters representing each of the state’s 99 counties.
The campus sexual assault pledge follows the unveiling of Clinton’s $10 billion plan to combat drug and, specifically, heroin abuse — another widespread problem that impacts families but is often considered uncomfortable and even painful to discuss.
“It’s not enough to condemn campus sexual assault,” Clinton said Monday. “We need to end campus sexual assault.”