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4 Reasons Why the New VA Sexual Assault Bill Totally Sucks

From the White House “It’s On Us” campaign to JMU’s own “No More” campaign, sexual assault has been THE hot button issue on campuses across the country. And now, sexual assault is moving past the campaign stage and into the legislative chamber: Bill SB 712 dictates that faculty or staff members must report any information on a sexual assault to law enforcement within 48 hours.

The intended purpose of this bill is to force perpetrators to be punished for their crimes by the police. The unintended consequences, however, do much more harm than good.

Law & Order

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Here are five reasons why this bill would be a detriment to survivors and the overall issue of sexual assault on college campuses:

  1. Many survivors choose not to go to the police. This bill forces them to.

In a university setting, a survivor has several options when reporting a sexual assault: report to the police or report to the university. Many survivors choose to report to the university so that they don’t have to go through the lengthy and painful legal process. This bill would combine the two processes, taking the choice away from survivors. Forcing survivors to go through a frequently fruitless investigation and trial is definitely not in their best interest.

  1. The bill will most likely result in LESS reporting of sexual assaults to universities.

Because of this potential new link between university and police, survivors could very likely stop reporting to university officials. Essentially, the bill will have the exact opposite effect that is intended.

  1. Less reporting will create a more unsafe campus environment.

Less reporting will lead to less perpetrators being brought to justice, both by the university and the police.

  1. The bill ignores the real issue.

Max Ehrenfreund’s Washington Post article raises an interesting point about this new legislation: the bill would take the onus off of university administrators, who have been receiving the most backlash on the handling of sexual assault cases. The answer isn’t to cut them out completely; it’s to better educate them on how to handle the cases.

The bottom line: this bill comes from a well-intentioned place, but has many more consequences than advantages. The bill is a simple solution to a complex problem, and survivors’ voices deserve to be heard.

Want your voice to be heard? The bill has passed subcommittee and will be voted on the Senate floor between today and next Monday. Take some time and call your local senator (find out who yours is here); even if you leave a voicemail, it can make a huge difference. Let’s help to stop a simple solution and fight for a more complex, comprehensive one.

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