Campus SaVE Act

The Campus SaVE Act amends the Clery Act to expand the scope of sexual assault reporting, response, and prevention education requirements for schools. Originally introduced in Congress as a free-standing bill, the Campus SaVE Act later became law after it was incorporated into the Violence Against Women Act at Section 304 when VAWA was reauthorized in 2013. Subsequently, the Department of Education engaged in a negotiated rulemaking process that allegedly disregarded Congress’ legislative intent.

The SaVE Act (SaVE is an acronym for “Sexual Violence Elimination”) requires that schools’ student discipline proceedings include a “statement of the standard of evidence” used, and mandates that school decision makers be trained on how to investigate and adjudicate cases in a manner that “protects the safety of victims” and “promotes accountability.”

One of the key provisions of the Campus SaVE Act is the requirement that recipients of federal funding provide documentation that their sexual assault training programs are “informed by an understanding of… trauma-specific approaches.”

In her article titled, The Bad Science Behind Campus Response to Sexual Assault, Emily Yoffe contended that trauma-informed investigations are not based in science, but rather have evolved from a “small band of self-styled experts in the neurobiology of trauma.” Yoffe revealed how trauma informed techniques teach campus administrators that “virtually every action or behavior that might cast legitimate doubt on an assault should be routinely discounted – and that no matter what precedes or follows an accusation of assault, the accused is always guilty.”

Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk has similarly described the believe-the-victim approach as a “near-religious teaching” that is likely to harm rape victims: “When the core belief is that accusers never lie, if any one accuser has lied, it brings into question the stability of the entire thought system, rendering uncertain all allegations of sexual assault.”

By presuming the guilt of the accused, trauma informed approaches stand at odds with the “equitable” investigations required by Title IX regulations. For more information on “believe the victim” investigations and their liability risks, see the SAVE Special Report, “Victim-Centered Investigations: New Liability Risk for Colleges and Universities.”