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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We've heard a lot about federal efforts to stem the epidemic of sexual assault on American college campuses. The latest action comes from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced new legislation today. Studies show one in five women are raped or assaulted while in school. The bill imposes new penalties on colleges and universities for not complying with certain requirements. In a moment we'll hear from two of the bill's sponsors. First, NPR's Laura Sullivan reports on a story shared at today's news conference on Capitol Hill.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Anna went off to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York last year and was allegedly raped 16 days into her freshman year. A medical examiner's report found blunt force trauma possibly from multiple partners. And an eyewitness said he saw Anna passed out in the back of a dance hall being raped by football players while others watched and took pictures. The football players denied the charges. The school cleared them 12 days later. One of the first people Anna called was her mom, Susan.

SUSAN: There are really no words to explain what a parent goes through when they get a phone call like that.

SULLIVAN: Susan and Anna have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.

SUSAN: It is hard to convey what this means to the families out there because their child has been assaulted, harassed and retaliated against and have been made to feel lost and powerless.

SULLIVAN: A group of senators is aiming to help them with a new bill meant to force colleges to handle rape accusations aggressively - provide advocates for victims and produce a survey of students each year that will be made public. If they don't they could be fined up to 1 percent of their operating budgets which for some schools could mean millions of dollars. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, is one of the bill's cosponsors.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: We are done with the days of asking victims why they drank too much or wore the wrong thing or went to the wrong place or hung out with the wrong guy. Those days are done.

SULLIVAN: Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrats from Missouri and New York, recently conducted an anonymous survey of colleges and found most schools are ill-equipped to handle assault cases. What's more, it found schools have a financial and public incentive not to investigate or report allegations that do arise. Twenty percent of U.S. colleges still allow athletic departments to adjudicate rape cases involving athletes. McCaskill and Gillibrand say, they hope to get the legislation passed by Congress by the end of the year. Laura Sullivan, NPR News, the Capital.

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