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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Seeks Funds To Fight College Campus Sex Assaults

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – After taking on sexual assault cases in the military, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is launching a new effort to fight sexual assaults on college campuses.

Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri released a joint bipartisan letter Friday to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, asking for money to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at colleges and universities.

Speaking at Columbia University on Monday, Gillibrand pointed to a combination of under-funding and poor staff training at schools across the country and has asked for $100 million in federal funding to boost enforcement of current laws, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

“This is criminal behavior and the fact that our colleges and universities are not protecting their students is equally as egregious,” said the senator. “People who are trained in sexual assault understand how to do these investigations and can begin to show a measure of accountability.”

Statistics show college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012, meaning college women have a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college peers, Gillibrand said.

“America’s colleges and universities are the best in the world. But it is simply unacceptable that they become havens for rape and sexual assault,” said Gillibrand. “It is time to take this crisis head on and end the scourge of sexual assault on our college campuses, hold offenders accountable, and keep our students safe.”

Studies show nearly one in five college women will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported. In 2012, New York State colleges and universities reported 365 forcible sex offenses, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“These are not cases of dates gone badly, of a misunderstanding about whether she said yes or no, these are actually brutal crimes committed by recidivists and predators,” Gillibrand said.

College counselors and women advocacy groups are urging parents and students to pay attention to the statistic when choosing a school.

“Obviously, it’s something parents can look at and should look at of what are the policies,” Sonia Ossorio with the National Organization for Women said.

Emma Sulkowicz, a junior at Columbia University, said she was raped on the first day of her sophomore year and her attacker, who is suspected in at least two other sexual assaults, was never brought to justice.

“The school dismissed all three of us,” Sulkowicz said. “It horrifies me that the voices of three women were not heard. I am sad to say that I now understand why so few survivors come forward.”

Sulkowicz said she reported the assault to the university and not to police.

Dartmouth University recently tweeted out details of its sex assault policy, saying expulsion is mandatory for cases of rape.

Columbia University’s president sent out a letter to staff and students Monday afternoon detailing its efforts to improve sexual assault awareness on campus.

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