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House Bill cracking down on sexual assault on college and university campuses

JACKSON- A bill was authored for the 2017 Legislative Session to create ‘The Sexual Assault Response for Students in Universities and Community and Junior Colleges Act.” 

The bill, authored by Representatives Angela Cockerham and Kathy Sykes, would require all universities, colleges, and junior colleges to adopt a comprehensive policy concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and staking that is consistent with federal law.

The law would require those schools to list the minimum requirements for each policy. That includes the definition of what consent is, and a prohibition against retaliation of a victim.

The state already adheres to Title 9, a federal law that prohibits discrimination in federal funded educational activities, and under that law sexual assault and harassment are considered discrimination on the basis of sex.

“What this bill is doing is taking a look into having a broader policy to help combat campus sexual assault. Unfortunately, I have become aware of instances of sexual assault and we want to make sure there is a system of uniformity in the way they’re being handled around the state,” said Cockerham.

The bill describes consent as a freely given agreement to sexual activity regardless of verbal or physical resistance. A lack of resistance does not necessarily constitute consent.

It would force a mandate on schools to, at the very least, provide the survivor with a notification of their rights and options within a response time of 12 hours after receiving a report of assault.

Students would be given access to confidential advisers to receive support and care in the event of sexual violence.  Options for students to anonymously report this violence would be made available.

“We are requiring that training be done annually and that colleges and universities have an all around approach of awareness in regards to sexual assault,” said Cockerham.

The bill passed in the House 117 to 2 with one amendment made. It has been received in the Senate. If approved it will go into effect on August 1, 2018.

Cockerham said she will be working closely with the states IHL and Junior Community Colleges moving forward to make sure they have input into the bill.

“Going forward just know that there may be some changes in the bill but the intent is to make sure that if there are incidents there are simple and easy ways for students to seek support on their campus,” said Cockerham.

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