The Clinton political acumen cannot be denied.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to curtail campus sexual assault Monday during a “Women for Hillary” event at the University of Northern Iowa. This was Clinton’s first time discussing sexual assault while on the campaign trail, and comes in the midst of the Safe Campus Act and the Fair Campus Act being considered in Congress.
Liberal critics have called the bills toothless, and the Safe Campus Act, were it passed, would not allow universities to discipline accused rapists unless the survivor reports what happened to law enforcement.
Clinton called for a comprehensive plan to provide support for survivors and implement prevention measures. How her administration plans to support and prevent was not necessarily specified.
Making note of the powerful statistic that one in five women are sexually assaulted while attending college allowed Clinton to set up her platform and bring attention to this serious issue.
For Clinton to confront sexual assault on campus, and for her to call it an “epidemic” at that, separates her from other candidates, both Republican and Democrat. Clinton took full advantage of this, taking Republican candidates to task for their stance on women’s health issues immediately after the meat of her speech, which was focused on campus sexual assault.
The shortcomings of campus sexual assault policies, according to Clinton, include a lackluster infrastructure of survivor services like “counseling and healthcare,” a “maze of bureaucracy that forces survivors to navigate ... without any real help,” unimpressive bystander prevention programs, a lack of respect from law enforcement towards those survivors who do come forward, and a lack of unity around the issue from groups outside of women.
Clinton illustrated the reality of sexual assault on campus.
"Think of the impact on their lives. They’re trying to manage the emotional, physical, sometimes the educational, financial fallout," Clinton said. "They miss classes, some drop out, some never finish their education. Thankfully this is an issue that is finally gaining the attention it deserves."
In the middle of her speech, Clinton took the time to “commend ... one of the fraternities ... on campus” for their work against sexual assault and for trying “to change attitudes, to educate not only their fraternity members but the broader campus.”
Clinton suggested that prevention programs should begin before college does.
“We need to be spreading the ideas and talking to young people – literally starting in high school – about issues like consent and bystander prevention,” Clinton said. “This is a lot bigger than a single conversation at freshman orientation or, as I heard earlier, an online program that everyone has to take that's kind of in isolation.”
Planned Parenthood and its services such as emergency contraception, psychological support and testing, were also praised by Clinton.
These statements are reminiscent of UConn’s struggles with sexual assault over the past few years. UConn recently reached a $1.3 million settlement in a Title IX suit regarding the university’s response to a spate of alleged sexual assaults on campus.
Banu Bayraktar, the ex-officio USG senator for the Women’s Center and a fifth-semester geology major, was unimpressed with Clinton’s plans for reform.
“Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been filled with hypocrisy from the start,” Bayraktar said. “It’s no coincidence that Hillary chose a campaign event to boldly tell survivors of sexual assault that their voices should not be silenced, even though she has silenced the women who were sexually harassed by her own husband. I support anyone who calls for sexual assault reform on and off college campuses, but I will not praise Clinton’s consistent mediocrity when addressing social issues.”
This is not the first time Clinton has rallied around this issue. While a senator, Clinton had a hand in bills that offered emergency contraception to women in the military and emergency contraception to non-military women in the hospital.
“I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault: Don’t let anyone silence your voice,” Clinton said. “You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed. And we’re with you as you go forward.”
Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.