U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) met with Keuka College students, faculty, staff, and administrators at the Jephson Community Athletic Complex Thursday afternoon to talk about a pressing and serious issue: domestic violence and sexual assault.
According to the National Institute of Justice, one in five women experiences sexual assault during her college years, a figure that Reed hopes to reduce not only through proposed legislation, but by personally educating college students in his district through visits similar to Thursday’s.
Reed told the story of how his 18-year-old niece was sexually assaulted during a high school prom. “This topic is personal to me …. she was the victim of a horrific crime, and it tore our family apart,” he said.
Reed shared his first-hand experience with the impact sexual assault and domestic violence has on women and their families to a captive audience, many of whom were student-athletes and mentors to new students.
Reed said seeing his niece’s pain devastated him, but that he was proud of her for “standing up [in court], facing her attackers, looking them in the eye, and saying what they did was not okay.
“I decided to use my office as a means to bring awareness to these issues, and together, we’re going to say ‘no more’ to sexual assault and domestic violence,” Reed told the crowd, referencing the national campaign he and his staff are involved with. NO MORE seeks to raise awareness of, and bring an end to, domestic violence and sexual assault.
Reed also talked about the recently introduced Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation he and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are together championing along with more than a dozen other lawmakers.
“I’m a republican and she’s a democrat, but that doesn’t matter,” he said. “We need to come together as a nation and say enough is enough.”
The proposed legislation requires, among other things, training for college personnel and gives students access to confidential advisors on campus, two things Keuka College’s policies already require. The bill would also increase accountability and cooperation with law enforcement at all of the nation’s colleges and universities.
Sophomore Kelly Bailey, an adolescent mathematics education major from Avon and member of the women’s volleyball team, said she is encouraged that elected leaders such as Reed and Gillibrand are doing everything they can to raise awareness of these issues.
“I thought it was a great message and brings a lot to our campus,” she said. “I’m training to be a high school math teacher, and this is a big issue in high schools, too.”
When asked how students can help, Reed replied by saying they should share his message.
“Talk about it. Talk about what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship. And when you see something wrong, step up and say something. Do something. I know each and every one of you will know it when you see it,” Reed said.
Reed’s message aligns perfectly with Keuka College’s commitment to threading social responsibility throughout its curriculum.
“To have the congressman talk so openly and honestly about this was surprising to many, but I don’t think it’s something our students will forget, and that’s a good thing,” said Keuka College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera. “Keuka College is one of the safest campuses in the country, but we can never lower our guard. We must talk about these topics openly and honestly to prevent anything from happening.”
“We want our students to be citizens and leaders who serve their communities, the nation, and the world. Sharing stories such as Congressman Reed’s is one powerful way they can do that.”