Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Friday she hopes recent rape hoaxes will put “more of a spotlight on the problem [of rape].”
She was asked if the recent highly publicized hoaxes are “helping or hurting” her advocacy relating to stopping sexual assault on university campuses.
“Well, I hope it’s just putting more of a spotlight on the problem. My hope is that it’s not undermining our advocacy, because this is important,” Gillibrand said. “These lives of these women and men–young lives that are being destroyed and ruined, because there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape whether it’s the criminal justice system or whether it’s the campus adjudication process.”
Gillibrand’s statements come in the midst of a lawsuit filed against Columbia University by Paul Nungesser, a student accused of an August 2012 rape by fellow student Emma Sulkowicz. Sulkowicz, also known as “Mattress Girl,” is a student whose cause is championed by Gillibrand. Nungesser publicly released social media communication between him and Sulkowicz showing her to be an obsessed, vengeful former love interest rejected by Nungesser.
Sulkowicz began carrying a mattress around for a school visual project called “Carry that Weight,” referencing her sexual assault claim against Nungesser.
Gillibrand wants university campuses punished more severely “for not meeting their title IX obligations.”
“So what I’m trying to do through my legislation is up the incentives and actually make it worth their while to get it right and that’s why an online campus survey that’s confidential across all campuses will really give an accurate depiction of what’s actually going on in each of the schools,” she said, demanding “real punishments” for the schools.
She added, “If campuses are not meeting their title IX obligations –to have real fines–the ability to fine them up to one percent of their operating budget and really hold them accountable for not doing their reporting.”
Gillibrand put forth sexual assault legislation last year aimed at the military but the bill did not have enough votes for passage in the upper chamber.