First in the Nation – New Law to Protect Sexual Assault Victims on College Campuses

May 13, 2014

Hartford, CT – The entire Senate Republican caucus voted in favor of a proposal that aims to reduce the incidence of sexual assault on Connecticut’s college campuses by strengthening reporting requirements and instituting new protocols to help victims.

“A recent incident at our state university sparked a debate and focused national attention on a national issue, sexual assault on college campuses. Clearly this is not just an issue for Connecticut colleges but all college campuses. In reality what happened and the response of personnel highlighted flaws in the system and those were addressed,” said Senator Toni Boucher (R-26).

A thorough review by the chairs and ranking members of the Higher Education Committee and interested legislators from both sides of the aisle with the cooperation of higher education institutions resulted in new procedures, response teams and a cooperative agreement with law enforcement and sexual assault violence prevention centers and agencies in the community.

“Connecticut has been at the forefront of this issue. We want to make sure that we have the best processes and procedures,” said Sen. Boucher. “The immediate and proper response to sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence on campus is of particular importance as many students leave home for the first time when starting college.”

“Sexual assault and domestic violence is a problem that impacts both men and women, and the frequency of assault on Connecticut’s college campuses is disturbing,” said Senator Kevin Witkos (R-8), also a co-sponsor of the bill. “This legislation is an important step in expanding violence prevention and awareness. The bill aims to help victims learn about their rights and options to seek justice. It also promotes campus-wide education to make sure all students and staff know how to recognize and respond to violence. Sexual assault is a serious problem, and lawmakers have shown today that we are serious about making college campuses safe.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by many Republican senators and supported by all, will:

  • Allow victims including employees of college institutions to report incidents of sexual assault anonymously, provided that doing so does not violate state or federal law.
  • Require schools to provide counseling and advocacy services to students who are victimized off-campus including being sexually assaulted and stalked.
  • Empower bystanders to prevent such crimes by requiring colleges and universities to provide prevention and awareness training to all students and staff, including a clear explanation of what constitutes consent in a sexual relationship and strategies for bystander intervention.
  • Require schools to report annually to the legislature about policies on sexual assault, training programs, numbers of sexual assaults and disciplinary action.
  • Require sexual assault response teams to be put in place on campuses and for universities to collaborate with clinics in their area so students have access to free care.

The legislation, H.B. 5029, brings current state law in closer alignment with the federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act by requiring the uniform campus crime reports to include incidences of sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence against students and employees that were reported to the institution.

“This is model legislation for the rest of the country. We listened to our students’ call for help. The victims of sexual assault carry this trauma with them for the rest of their lives. This issue was far too serious for us to ignore,” said Boucher.