Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lawmakers Work to Stop Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Sexual Assault on college campuses is nothing new; it seems to have always been a growing issue. The facts are staggering, 1 in 5 college students experience sexual assault during their college careers. If those numbers weren’t scary enough, 95% of U.S. campus rapes go unreported. There are many different laws and regulations trying to end sexual assault, trying to help survivors, and prosecute perpetrators. At the core, these laws aim to make an endlessly complex issue less complex, and give guidelines that are effective in helping victims. It is obvious that colleges and universities struggle with knowing what the right way to prevent and deal with sexual assault is. Lawmakers on the state and national level continue to search for the best way to solve this issue.

In Massachusetts lawmakers have introduced a new bill to which will provide new guidelines to handle the sexual assaults that happen on college campuses. After hearing the testimonies of students, State Senator Michael Moore, State Representatives Daniel Donahue and Tricia Farley-Bouvier have introduced two versions of the bill, one for each chamber. This bill will uniformly guide colleges and university on how alleged sexual assaults should be handled, including requirements such as mandatory sexual violence training for staff and students, and a confidential system in which victims can discreetly report an assault to an advisor, etc.

Similarly, federal lawmakers are working to introduce a bill that will aid the sexual assault crisis, but in a much different way than the MA legislature plans to. The law was introduced by US Representative Matt Salmon (R-Arizona), Representative Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas) in July. The Safe Campus Act explains that colleges and universities do not have to take any sort of punitive measures against an accused student unless the student reporting the attack agrees to go to law enforcement. There is a lot of push back to this bill that some believe will only decrease the number of students coming forward about sexual assaults.

With the different legislators, federal and state governments, as well as different campaigns aimed to help victims and stop sexual assault, it is clear that this issue can no longer be ignored. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently announced she would tackle the issue during a speech at the University of Northern Iowa. As the presidential race continues, there is hope that this issue is kept in the minds of presidential hopefuls. There is no easy way to remedy this issue, but it working toward a solution is increasingly important for future generations.

-Courtney Chapin