USC students took a stand on Tuesday against sexual violence on campus by advocating for a piece of legislation about to expire.
The event was led by the USC Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment (SAGE), who urged students to call their representatives in both the House and the Senate to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is set to expire Sept. 30.
VAWA was first signed into law in 1994 and has passed with strong bipartisan support three other times. The act provides funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and mandatory restitution for those convicted.
But this year, Democrats added gun control measures to the proposal that would exclude persons convicted of dating violence and stalking, and those under protective orders from owning guns.
We reached out to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Twitter yesterday, but we did not get any reply.
"VAWA has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking," according to a letter written by congressional members led by Reps. John Katko (R-New York) and Elise Stefanik (R-New York).
Even under the protection of the Act, sexual violence on campus is pervasive.
According to the statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 11.2 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. At USC, 29.7 percent of female respondents reported being sexually assaulted since enrollment, according to a Washington Post investigation in 2015.
Kylie Cheung, SAGE Director of Advocacy, said she thinks it is important to have students aware of these issues.
"A lot of women are likely to be killed if a gun is involved," Cheung said. "We know how prevalent this issue [sexual violence] remains, and we can't move backwards."
VAWA budgeted $26 million in 2017 for programs to help prevent campus violence, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
"The main thing is getting students to understand these measures are currently in place to help to prevent sexual assault, sexual violence, domestic violence," said Mai Mizuno, who participated Tuesday's event and who is a Title IX student representative.
According to CarolAnn Peterson, a full-time lecturer at USC School of Social Work and an expert in domestic and workplace violence, there are significant consequences if the reauthorization efforts fail.
"We could potentially lose the hotline, shelters will close, and some will have to cut staff," Peterson said.
For students like Cheung, the reality of losing VAWA is worrisome.
"If it is expired at the end of this month and not renewed by Congress, we would live in a more dangerous society," Cheung said.