Campus Assault Reporting Bill Clears Committee

 

DOVER – The House Administration Committee today approved legislation to strengthen sexual violence reporting, training and outreach resources for Delaware colleges and universities, setting the stage for a House floor vote on the measure.

“After more than a year of hard work and discussions, I’m pleased to say we have a very strong piece of legislation that will represent a big step forward for our state and our institutions of higher learning,” said Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, prime sponsor of HS1 for HB1. “In cooperation with the leaders we have at UD, DSU and other Delaware colleges, we will continue to break down the culture of silence surrounding sexual assault on campus.”

Drafted in collaboration with stakeholders from across Delaware’s sexual assault advocacy community, House Substitute 1 for House Bill 1 would ensure that victims of sexual violence on college campuses have full knowledge of the options available to them, including criminal justice resources available in addition to the internal administrative processes led by their schools.

A recent student survey conducted by the University of Delaware found that fewer than 5 percent of respondents who said they were victims of sexual misconduct on campus reported their cases to the university. Less than half of the students surveyed said they knew how to seek help after an incident of sexual assault. 

“I’m thankful to the committee for supporting this bill and I’m proud of the thoughtful way this piece of legislation came together,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, who is cosponsoring the bill. “As elected officials we have a duty to guard the safety and wellbeing of all Delawareans; that is the motivation behind this bill. I look forward to bringing HS1 for HB1 to the House floor for a full vote.”

“I thank the sponsors of HS1 for HB1 for making the safety of our students a top priority in this legislative session,” said Delaware State University President Harry L. Williams. “Our Title IX coordinator, university police officers and team of counselors and victim advocates work every day to ensure that our campus environment is a safe place for all of our students to learn and thrive. DSU will continue to make the education of our staff and students on the issue of sexual assault and the support for victims of sexual assault top priorities on our campus.”

“The University of Delaware considers student safety our top priority and we commend this bill's sponsors for their shared concern,” said University of Delaware Acting President Nancy M. Targett. “One noteworthy result of the discussions around this proposed legislation has been the increased collaboration among Title IX coordinators from the University of Delaware and other colleges and universities in the state. It is particularly gratifying to see these professionals working together to share best practices for the prevention of and response to sexual misconduct.”

The bill would designate “responsible employees” at Delaware’s institutions of higher learning who, when given a report of sexual violence, must take certain steps to ensure the report is communicated to the proper university officials. A “responsible employee” would also be required to offer to report a victim’s case to police, if the victim so wishes.

Additionally, HS1 for HB1 would require Delaware institutions of higher education to report their annual federal Title IX data regarding incidents of sexual assault and the outcomes of those incidents to the General Assembly, which would make the information available to the public. This will allow Delawareans to monitor the progress their colleges and universities are making as they continue to implement new and better policies to proactively combat sexual violence on their campuses.

This legislation was part of a bipartisan, multi-bill package introduced last year in the General Assembly that focused on policy areas where reform is needed for Delaware women. So far, seven of the 11 bills in this package have been signed into law. This includes House Bill 2, a measure that requires Delaware police officers and prosecutors to receive new periodic training related to sexual assault, and House Bill 81, which requires Delaware schools to publicly list contact information for designated Title IX coordinators, the officials charged with hearing reports of sexual misconduct and advising victims of their rights.

 

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