House passes legislation to aid victims of assault, protect students on college campuses

state-capitol2The House of Delegates passed legislation from Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) to make college campuses safer. The legislation passed unanimously in the House.

Speaking about the legislation, Delegate Rob Bell said, “As we worked on this legislation, our two goals were to ensure that Virginia colleges protect victims of assault and that we prevent future victims. This bill does both. It ensures that schools provide victims of sexual assault support from an unaffiliated service and that they inform a victim of sexual assault of all her options. It also establishes the procedure requiring that every charge of felony sexual assault on campus either be released immediately to the police or sent for review to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. These policies will protect victims of sexual assault and will make college campuses safer for students.”

Background on House Bill 1930: For the immediate victim, the bill requires each school to establish a memorandum of understanding with an unaffiliated sexual assault support service, to make sure every victim can get support and advice from an unbiased group.  In addition, each victim will be informed of all of her options to pursue the matter, and will be specifically told about the confidentiality rules for any report she makes.
To prevent the next victim, the bill does three things:

  1. The decisions regarding public safety will be made by a review team, not just one administrator.  The review team will include a member of campus law enforcement.
  2. When a report of sexual violence is made, the review team will determine if disclosure is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or the public.  If so, law enforcement is notified immediately.
  3. If not, where the report describes conduct that would be a felony sexual assault, the team will notify the local Commonwealth’s Attorney.  Pursuant to federal law, this will have to be done without the student’s personally identifying information, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney will retain the ability to proceed however she sees fit.

What this means is that every charge of felony sexual assault will either be released immediately to the police or sent for review to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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