By: Senator Katy Ives – Nov. 2017
The State Senate unanimously passed a comprehensive bill that would require higher education institutions in Massachusetts to set in place requirements on how campus police report and disclose an incident of dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
S.2191 filed by Senator Moore. An Act Concerning Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses would also require higher education institutions to adopt policies consistent with Title IX of the federal higher education amendments. Title IX requires all schools receiving federal funds must take immediate and effective steps to respond to sexual violence against their students.
The National Sexual Violence Resources Center reported that one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college. An estimated 90% of students do not report incidents of sexual violence.
This bill requires all students and staff to receive mandatory annual sexual violence prevention and awareness programming and bystander strategies, be informed about the procedures to report incidents as well as notified of the campus policies including resources and support services available to assault victims on and off campus.
It also requires schools to designate a confidential resource advisor which, at the request of the reporting party, can inform them of their options (report to the school, report to the police, report to neither, or report to both) and the resources available to them.
Having a confidential resource can be the difference between someone getting help or remaining silent. In order to have better coordination with appropriate outside resources and services, campuses will be required to establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with sexual assault crisis centers. In addition, campuses will be required to develop policies and procedures with local law enforcement that comply with all applicable confidentiality and privacy laws.
The lack of training of campus staff responsible for conducting investigations often leads to negative results and experiences for the accused and victims. This legislation requires that those participating in disciplinary proceedings will receive appropriate training to make sure they are knowledgeable about how to handle these incidents.
A Campus Safety Advisor will be appointed within the Department of Higher Ed. in order to advance state-wide campus safety initiatives. This advisor with public safety experience will serve as a resource for schools and provide guidance on policies, as well as share best practices, training opportunities, and other resources to enhance campus safety.
With the uncertainty on the federal level regarding sexual assault policies, the passage of this legislation is timely. Although this legislation will not end campus assaults, it will set in place uniformity on prevention and reporting. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration.