Legislation aims to rid college campuses of sexual predators - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Legislation aims to rid college campuses of sexual predators

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

College campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012, putting college women at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

That shocking statistic combined with numerous accounts of victims being sexually assaulted at universities unable, or unwilling, to adequately address the problem has led to new bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday called the ‘Campus Safety and Accountability Act.’

Its purpose is to force universities to take proactive steps to protect their students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.

University of Chicago student Olivia Ortiz fought hard for the new legislation. Four years ago, she was an excited young college student attending the university of her dreams -- an experience that would eventually turn into a nightmare.

"It's really, really bizarre. One day everything seems fine, and the next it comes crashing down," Ortiz said.

Three years ago, on the campus of the University of Chicago, Ortiz became a victim of sexual assault at the hands of an abusive boyfriend and fellow student. Doing what she thought was right, she reported the incident to university officials. She waited for a resolution for more than a year. Meanwhile her life was put on hold and her studies suffered.

"I found it harder and harder to get out of bed and go to class. I found it hard to complete, or even start my assignments, so I constantly turned them in late," she said.

Months passed, and Ortiz was referred to a resident trauma expert at student counseling services. She said the expert told her that you should probably expect something when you sleep in a bed with a guy.

Confused and shattered, Ortiz felt she had been exploited and tossed aside by the institution she so dearly loved.

"I didn't know about university policy, I didn't want to seek through the jargon after coming out of an 8 month abusive relationship," she said.

In 2012, her story of abuse and claims of a failed university policy was published in The Maroon, the University of Chicago independent student newspaper. It was the spark that ignited a university wide investigation into its sexual assault policy.

"Its a way for me to leverage change within the school," Ortiz added.

It took more than a year, but change did happen. Ortiz was appointed to an advisory board at the school and a new policy was created. She hopes the University of Chicago and other institutions caught up in similar investigations learn a lesson.

"This is serious. I'm saying you need to change and you need to listen to student's voices. Because we have a voice and we will not stop," she said.

Ortiz told FOX 32 News she plans to attend law school and continue to fight for sexual assualt victims.

The Senators who cosponsor the 'Campus Safety and Accountability Act' have been working together for months to examine federal, state, and local policies, collect feedback from stakeholders, and craft bipartisan legislation to better protect and empower students, as well as hold both perpetrators and institutions accountable.

To learn more on ending sexual assault on campuses, visit here.

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