Conn. Sen. Blumenthal working to reduce sexual assault on college campuses

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January 31, 2014, 6:11 pm
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(NECN: Brian Burnell, West Hartford, Conn.) -  Last fall four women filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Connecticut saying the school failed to adequately deal with their sexual assaults on campus. 

In the spring of 2011 a Yale University fraternity was sanctioned after some of its members taunted women with sexually-tinged insults on campus. The video turned up on Youtube. 

It's all part what many call the rape culture in America that is particularly strong on college campuses.  Conn. Senator Richard Blumenthal sat down with students and administrators to gather information for the President's task force on student sexual assault. 

Audrey Goulart is a junior at the University of Connecticut who teaches a seminar on consent.  She says it’s not only about giving consent, but also about hearing it.

"There are kids who are just like, well, what if it's like a maybe... not sure.  We're like, that's a no," said Goulart.

These students say alcohol plays a major role in sexual assault.  That drinking is prevalent on campus even though the kids are underage and that is a big problem in ways you might not consider.

Joanna Flanagan is a sophomore at the University of Hartford.   "Students who are assaulted under the influence are afraid to seek help or legal action because they're afraid that they'll get in trouble for being drunk instead of their attacker getting in trouble for raping them," said Flanagan.

Senator Blumenthal is also at the spearhead of the effort to cut into the rape culture in the military and while there are differences between the campus and the Army base, there is one principle that affects them both.

"Federal laws guarantee protection against sexual assault as a civil right.  Rape on campus is a crime.  That's why more effective federal action is not only necessary it is also an obligation under the law," said Blumenthal.

He says campuses that fail to reduce sexual assaults could lose some federal funding as punishment.

Tags: connecticut, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, Richard Blumenthal, sexual assault, University of Hartford, Yale University, Brian Burnell, Audrey Goulart, Joana Flanagan
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