Biden calls on men to confront rape culture

United States Vice-President Joe Biden is urging male students to play a bigger role in attempts to combat campus sexual assault as he sets off on a college tour.

“We have more to do to change the culture that asks the wrong questions, like: ‘Why were you there? What were you wearing? Were you drinking?’” Biden wrote in an open letter. “We have to ask the right questions: ‘What made him think that he could do what he did without my consent? Why on earth did no one stop him instead of standing by?’”

Biden’s tour marks roughly a year since the White House launched a campaign, It’s On Us, pushing college men to play a greater role in attempts to combat rape on campus. Echoing that campaign, Biden underlined the importance of consent to sexual encounters: “Any time consent is not or cannot be given, it is sexual assault and it is a crime.”

The vice-president’s tour also takes place amid a clash between advocates for survivors of sexual assault and organisations representing college fraternities and sororities – two groups promoting opposing Bills to curb rape on campuses.

Major survivors’ groups have rallied behind the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The Bill is a long-standing effort by senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, to require sexual assault training for campus officials, standardised investigation and punishment, and increased resources for victims of assault.

The Bill also stiffens fines for colleges found to violate the federal requirement for reporting sexual crimes. A third of the Senate has cosponsored the Act, which is expected to appear before Congress as part of the education budget soon.

Republican representatives Pete Sessions and Kay Granger of Texas, along with Matt Salmon of Arizona, have sponsored a rival Bill. The Safe Campus Act, introduced earlier this year, prohibits colleges from investigating reports of rape until the student bringing the complaint makes a report to police.

Some 200 local and national survivors’ groups have since signed a letter deriding this Bill. Sexual assault victims, they note, are often too afraid or traumatised to involve the police in a lengthy and invasive criminal investigation.

But several major groups representing fraternities and sororities, such as the National Pan-Hellenic Conference, are pushing the Bill as an alternative to McCaskill and Gillibrand’s. The two senators panned the Bill in a joint call last week and encouraged dues-paying sorority and fraternity chapters to oppose the legislation.

“I would be very upset if I were a young woman in a sorority today,” McCaskill said. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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