“When it comes to solving serious problems for Virginia citizens, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (a Democrat) and I (a Republican) don’t care about politics or party affiliation. Combatting sexual assault, whether it is between strangers or people dating, on private property or on college campus, is a serious crime and requires a serious response from police and prosecutors,” said Chairman David Albo. “Delegate Filler-Corn’s bill ensures that allegations of sexual assaults on college campuses will receive the same level of attention by police and prosecutors that off campus sexual assaults receive. This bill strengthens our justice system and encourages collaboration between victims, college staff, police and prosecutors. I’m proud to serve as a Chief Co-Patron on HB 1343 and join Eileen in working towards its passage because Eileen and I don’t care about politics, we care about our constituents.”
“We’re here today to support victims of sexual assaults and to make sure that all students are safe on our college campuses – even if they’re just visiting,” said Gil and Dan Harrington, parents of slain student Morgan Harrington and founders of Help Save the Next Girl. “Our hope is that by coming together today, from all parts of Virginia, we can convince the General Assembly to pass this bill. This is a good first step to making our universities safer.”
The most recent Clery Act numbers, which record forcible sexual assaults reported on college campuses found there were more than 3,900 reports nationwide in 2012.
However, a December report by the U.S. Justice Department found that 80 percent of students do not report rape and sexual assaults to the police.
HB 1343 works to restore victims’ faith in the justice system and to show that they will be heard and supported. The bill expedites investigation of the case once reported to campus law enforcement, while ensuring the proper course of action, due process and any necessary legal filings are completed.
“What is so important about this bill is that it lets each Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness program get involved early on in the investigation,” said Michael R. Doucette, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Lynchburg. “Sexual assault crimes often are the most psychologically traumatic crimes for victims. Our victim/witness advocates can provide timely counseling and educate a victim about her/his options going forward with a criminal prosecution. The sooner we can help ease that psychological trauma, the sooner we can help these victims recover. I urge the General Assembly to pass this bill.”
“Teamwork and speed are often vital in sexual assault cases,” said Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford. “By getting the Commonwealth’s Attorney office involved within the first 48 hours of a report, we’re able to help work with law enforcement to ensure that a prompt investigation and important evidence is collected. So often successful prosecution hinges on that evidence, to lose record of it because of time delays is heartbreaking.”
“Unfortunately – and tragically – sexual assault has long been an issue on our college campuses,” said John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association. “It’s a complex issue we’ve been working with Delegate Filler-Corn and others on for many years. While nothing is a silver bullet, by combining our resources and working together, more victims will come forward. In partnership with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and victims’ advocates, we can successfully prosecute sexual offenders, and deter future crimes. But it starts with the General Assembly passing this bill and that’s why we’re here today. We need their support.”
Kristine Hall, Policy Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance added: “We are pleased to be working with Del. Filler-Corn, Del Albo and several of their colleagues to strengthen Virginia’s response to sexual assault on college campuses. We have made significant progress in the past thirty years, but justice for victims of sexual assault is still elusive. Legislation is one of many important ways to improve the response. This bill moves us forward by ensuring prosecutors are informed of these case early in the process. And, that’s why this needs to pass.”
Supporters of the bill include:
Michael R. Doucette, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg
Mary Gavin, City of Falls Church Chief of Police
Gil and Dan Harrington, founders of Help Save the Next Girl and parents of Morgan Harrington
Stacey Kincaid, Fairfax County Sheriff
Denise Lunsford, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Albemarle County
Trina Murphy, Aunt of Alexis Murphy, Help Save the Next Girl supporters
Ray Morrogh, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County
Virginia Sheriffs Association, representing 95 sheriffs
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
“By passing this bill, we can show victims that we will not tolerate sexual assault on campus,” said Filler-Corn. “We can show them they can have faith in our justice system. And that we are working to keep them safe. As a parent of two students at Virginia colleges, this is an issue close to my heart. Our universities have long been one of the Commonwealth’s greatest assets. Every parent I speak with agrees that we can strengthen our colleges and at the same time keep our children safe.”