College sex assaults: Senators offer a good proposal, with one caveat

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In four years, says the Justice Department, 20 percent of women entering college this September will become the victims of rape. They will march on graduation day with pomp, circumstance and the traumatic memory of their assault.

Equally perverse is the likelihood that these women will march side by side with their aggressors, for only one in eight sexual assaults will be reported. Even then, little more than academic probation or suspension will befall the offenders, who are shielded from the justice system by a college culture of protection.

It is this intolerable culture that is targeted by the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The bill by a bipartisan team of eight senators would require colleges receiving federal aid to bolster the involvement of law enforcement in cases of sexual assault, improve resources for rape survivors and ban the practice of athletic departments independently investigating charges against their own players.

One troubling part of the bill, however, would have college administrations conduct anonymous surveys to gather data on student experiences with sexual assault for publication online. This provision would empower embittered individuals to respond to the survey with false accusations to tarnish the image of the college over any grievance they might have.

While there is an undeniable need for this overall legislation, the Senate must ensure that, in tackling one problem, it does not create another.

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