Lawmakers want to help rape victims Schools must help victims or lose funding.

May 15, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

WASHINGTON -- Katie Koestner was just three weeks into her freshman year at the College of William and Mary when she was raped. The college's judicial system found a classmate guilty, but he was allowed to stay in school.

"I see his face almost every day," Koestner, 18, said yesterday during a Capitol Hill news conference on legislation that would guarantee campus rape victims the right to have criminal authorities investigate their cases.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., would require colleges to help obtain evidence for victims, assist in testing suspects for communicable diseases and provide victims access to campus mental health and counseling services. Schools that did not comply could lose federal funding.

In addition, schools would have to provide victims housing that separates them from suspected assailants and stop pressuring victims not to report sexual assaults.

Ramstad said he will work "day and night to see" that the bill passes before the fall semester begins.

One of every 6 college women says she has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, studies show; only 10 percent file complaints.

Supporters of the bill said too many universities handle sexual assault cases internally, hoping to save their reputations among alumni, donors and prospective students. Usually, there is no public report of the incident or the identity of the suspect.

Amy Bradach, 22, a senior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., was raped her freshman year and filed a complaint under the student code.

The judiciary board found a student guilty and suspended him for one year. Bradach sued the college because it would not impose a tougher penalty. Her lawsuit, which is pending, charges the college with negligently failing to protect her and mishandling her case.

Bradach, breaking into tears, said that college administrators were aware that the man had sexually assaulted women before, but "like so many other [colleges] they have consistently chosen to protect their reputation rather than the women students."

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