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On Equal Pay Day, Senator Hassan Highlights Economic Impact of Campus Sexual Assault on Survivors

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To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today participated in a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on campus sexual assault, where she questioned Ms. Fatima Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, about the long-term implications that a campus sexual assault can have on a survivor’s economic potential. Today’s hearing was one in a series of hearings focused on reauthorizing the comprehensive Higher Education Act.

“Today happens to be Equal Pay Day – the day that marks how far into the year women have to work to earn what men have already earned in the previous year,” Senator Hassan said. “In your opinion, do you think, Ms. Graves, that campus sexual assault has long-term implications to many survivors’ future economic potential?”

“There’s no question.” Ms. Graves responded. “We’ve had clients who haven’t finished college. We’ve had clients who’ve dropped out and become homeless. So the specific short-term impact is there, but it’s also a long-term impact. It means people aren’t taking the majors that they want to have just to avoid the person who attacked them.”

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s Prevention Innovations Research Center looked at the long-term implication of campus sexual assault and found that roughly 1/3 of survivors leave higher education before completion, which has long-term earning and career implications that impact their personal finances, as well as the overall economy.

Senator Hassan also cited her concerns about a proposed Title IX rule that would require survivors of sexual assault to participate in a live cross-examination, which experts warn can have the potential to re-traumatize survivors.

Ms. Graves noted that unlike in court room settings and police interviews, there are not regulations in place to ensure that live cross-examinations on college campuses would not re-traumatize survivors.

Senator Hassan added, “I also want to take a moment here and discuss traumatic memories, because that’s another issue. There’s extensive research that demonstrates that traumatic memories – like those resulting from an assault – are often distorted, and result in fragmented and disorganized memories that are missing details. Can you explain how cross examination in these cases could result in inaccurate information?”

Ms. Graves responded that during a live cross examination the person who is conducting the interview is likely not trained to ask questions relating to a trauma, which makes it more likely that a survivor will misremember their assault and struggle to accurately recall their traumatic experience.   

Today, Senator Hassan joined Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in reintroducing the SECuRE Act to help ensure that students who experience disabilities – and who face higher rates of sexual violence than students without disabilities – get the support they need when they are sexually assaulted.