VAWAThe Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, or Campus SaVE Act (SaVE), is a 2013 amendment to the federal Jeanne Clery Act. SaVE was the result of unprecedented collaboration among advocates, campus sexual violence survivors, activists and higher education practitioners, and was championed by a bi-partisan coalition in Congress as a companion to Title IX to help bolster the response to and prevention of sexual violence in higher education. President Obama signed the measure into law as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 on March 7, 2013, and it is also often referred to as either the VAWA amendments to the Clery Act or just VAWA.

SaVE requires colleges and universities, both public and private, participating in federal student aid programs (covering virtually every campus in the United States) to increase transparency about the scope of sexual violence on campus, guarantee victims enhanced rights, provide for standards that protect both the accuser and accused in institutional conduct proceedings, and provide campus community wide prevention educational programming.

Institutions were required to implement SaVE no later than October 1, 2014 – in effect by the 2014-2015 academic year. Final implementing regulations took effect July 1, 2015.

Increased Transparency

Colleges and universities beginning with the 2013 calendar year began collecting and reporting statistics for domestic violence, dating violence and stalking (as defined by the Violence Against Women Act) occurring on-campus, on public property within and adjacent to campus, and at non-campus properties like off-campus student organization housing and remote classrooms. Institutions were already required to report sexual assault statistics.

Institutions must collect statistics from a broad range of campus officials including Resident Advisors, Deans and athletic coaches, campus police or security, and local law enforcement. The law requires disclosures to protect the confidentiality of victims in these statistical disclosures as well as any public record keeping, to the extent provided by law.

Victims’ Rights

Institutions must adopt and publish procedures to afford all students and employees who report an incident of sexual violence – covering sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking – specific rights whether or not they pursue any formal complaint, including to law enforcement, or not. Additionally, written notice of these rights must be provided to a student or employee when they report to their institution.

Institutions must afford any student or employee who reports that they have been the victim of an incident of sexual violence, either on or off-campus, with the following information and rights:

  • Possible sanctions or protective measures that may result from an institutional disciplinary proceeding (see Conduct Proceedings below for additional information);
  • Procedures that should be followed in the event of an incident of sexual violence including –
    • The importance of preserving evidence for proof in criminal proceedings;
    • To whom the offense should be reported;
    • Options for reporting to law enforcement including the right to be assisted by campus authorities;
    • The right to decline to report to law enforcement; and
    • Information about no contact orders issued by a court.
  • Notification about existing counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, legal assistance and other services available on and off-campus.
  • Institutions must make changes to the academic, living, transportation and working situations of any victim if requested and reasonably available whether or not a formal report is made.

Conduct Proceedings

In addition to reporting to law enforcement, victims also have the option to seek protective or disciplinary action directly with their institution. Institutions must adopt and disclose policies that –

  • State that the institution prohibits the crimes of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • State the standard of evidence;
  • Provide a “prompt, fair and impartial investigation and resolution”;
  • Provide proceedings must be conducted by officials who receive annual sexual violence training, including on how to conduct an investigation, protect the safety of victims and promotes accountability;
  • Require that both accuser and accused are entitled to the same opportunities to have others present, including the opportunity to be accompanied to any related meeting or proceeding by an advisor of their choice (an institution may not meet this requirement by denying both parties the right to an advisor, and must permit attorneys to serve as advisors although their speaking role may be limited);
  • Require that both accuser and accused:
    • Receive timely notice of meetings at which the accuser or accused, or both, may be present; and
    • Receive timely and equal access to information that will be used during informal and formal disciplinary meetings and hearings.
  • State proceedings will be conducted by officials who do not have a conflict of interest or bias for or against the accuser or the accused.
  • Require that both the accuser and accused shall be simultaneously informed, in writing, of –
    • The outcome of any institutional disciplinary proceeding;
    • The procedures for the accused and the victim to appeal the results of the proceeding;
    • Any change to the results; and
    • When such results become final.

Education Programs

​Institutions must provide primary prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees, along with ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns, that –

  • Includes a statement that the institution prohibits sexual violence;
  • The definition of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in their jurisdiction (the institution must still follow the federal definitions when collecting statistics, offering victims assistance and conducting disciplinary proceedings);
  • The definition of consent for sexual activity in their jurisdiction;
  • Bystander intervention;
  • Risk reduction; and
  • ​Information about disciplinary proceedings and victims’ rights as required by SaVE.

Conclusion

Under the VAWA amendments to the Clery Act, which took full effect with the 2014-2015 academic year, students and employees have many important, additional rights and options to seek redress if they have been the victim of an act of sexual violence. The U.S. Department of Education’s Clery Act Compliance Division that has the power to investigate alleged violations and issue findings will enforce these provisions. If an institution is found to be in violation of the Clery Act they may face a warning, civil penalties up to $54,789 per violation, the limitation or suspension of federal student aid eligibility, or the loss of eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs.