The General Assembly has now passed four bills codifying recommendations of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force On Combating Campus Sexual Violence. The Task Force, which was chaired by Attorney General Mark R. Herring, worked for nearly eight months to develop 21 recommendations for reforming and improving the way Virginia works to prevent and respond to sexual violence on college campuses. The recommendations were organized into five themes: engaging our campuses and communities in comprehensive prevention, minimizing barriers to reporting, cultivating a coordinated and trauma-informed response, sustaining and improving campus policies and ensuring compliance, institutionalizing the work of the task force and fostering ongoing collaborations.
“The work of the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence made Virginia a national leader in tackling this issue head-on,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I are still working hard with Governor McAuliffe and his administration, SCHEV, the individual schools, and others to implement the recommendations of the Task Force and to send a clear signal that Virginia will not tolerate sexual violence on our campuses or a culture that condones it. One of the goals of the Task Force was to institutionalize its work and promote a lasting change, and by enacting these recommendations, the General Assembly is ensuring that the good work of the Task Force will remain enshrined in the law.”
“Codifying these substantive recommendations into law will make our campuses safer and our students more secure,” said Secretary of Education Anne Holton. “By coming together, we have made a tremendous step in the right direction, and I look forward to continuing this important work to ensure that Virginia’s campuses are the safest in the nation.”
Both chambers of the General Assembly have now passed:
HB1016 (Massie) Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)-This bill adds certain campus security and administration officials of any college or university in a particular locality to the participants in that locality’s annual meeting of its sexual assault response team. This bill enacts Task Force recommendation:
- Amend Virginia Code § 23-9.2:10 to require public and private institutions of higher education to establish Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs).
The Task Force made this recommendation because a coordinated response to campus sexual assault is essential to provide support and options to victims and survivors, increase sexual assault reporting, increase identification and prosecution of sexual offenders, and decrease re-victimization of survivors.
HB1015 (Massie) Higher Education and Local Law Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding-This bill will promote memorandums of understanding between public and nonprofit private institutions of higher education and their relevant local law enforcement agency to address the prevention of and response to criminal sexual assault. This bill enacts Task Force recommendation:
- Amend Virginia Code Sec. 23-234 (B) to require that institutions of higher education have MOUs with either the Virginia State Police or the local law enforcement agency, and that MOUs with local law enforcement address the prevention of and response to sexual assault.
The Task Force made this recommendation because an MOU is a tool to support communication and collaboration that sets forth the roles and responsibilities of the parties with respect to the prevention and investigation of crimes occurring on campus and involving students in the locality. The MOU is designed to enhance public safety and to assist law enforcement agencies, victim advocates, campus officials, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys to work together effectively to support sexual assault victims, to conduct timely and fair investigations, and to successfully prosecute perpetrators, if victims so choose.
“Campus safety is a priority for the Governor and the legislature,” said Del. Jimmie Massie. “Local law enforcement, campus police, and school administrators all have a role to play in preventing and responding to reports of sexual violence. These bills are very important for promoting cooperation between these groups and helping them all meet their responsibilities and the campus safety needs of our students.”
HB1102-(Filler-Corn) DCJS Trauma-informed Training-This bill requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to establish a curriculum and provide training on trauma-informed sexual assault investigation for those likely to be involved in such an investigation, including local law enforcement, campus police department, and campus security personnel. This bill enacts Task Force recommendation:
- Amend Virginia Code § 9.1-102 to require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to provide curriculum and training in trauma-informed sexual assault investigation.
The Task Force recommended this training to ensure that investigations are coordinated and done in a way that minimizes duplication of effort and revictimization when a survivor is forced to recount and relive the assault to multiple investigative agencies.
“A consistent, trauma-informed response to reports of sexual violence can help our students get on a path to healing following an incident of sexual violence, whether or not they choose to move forward with a criminal prosecution,” said Del. Eileen Filler-Corn. “Students should not have to relive and recount their experience over and over again to different agencies, and this training will help minimize further victimization and help students feel as comfortable as possible when they come forward.”
HB489 (McClellan) Collection and Storage of PERKs-Elements of this bill were incorporated into HB1160, an omnibus bill related to Physical Evidence Recovery Kits. This bill enacts Task Force recommendation:
- Amend Virginia law to require the collection and storage of Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) in cases of restricted reporting and to require that PERKs be retained for a specific period of time.
The Task Force made this recommendation because for victims who choose not to report to law enforcement at the time of the forensic exam, the current Virginia guideline does not allow for collection of full clothing, urine, or blood specimens (for drug testing). With no statute of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault in Virginia, valuable evidence could be destroyed and unavailable for testing and usage as evidence should a victim decide to seek prosecution in the future. Processing of all PERKs could also potentially link serial cases, as evidence has shown that the majority of sexual assault is serial in nature.