Building a Toolkit: Senator Morrell’s Fight Against Campus Sexual Assault

This legislative session, a number of bills are being introduced that aim to address sexual assault in our higher education institutions. Taken together, these bills aim to build a meaningful toolkit for legislators and higher education officials to provide better prevention and response to student survivors of sexual violence. There are two bills being heard in committee this week that you need to keep an eye on.

The first is SB255, a comprehensive campus sexual assault bill that would mandate several things, including:

  • The annual administration of a campus climate survey at every public Louisiana higher education institution
  • The public posting of the campus climate survey results
  • The creation of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act
  • The adoption of a uniform set of policies and best practices by the Board of Regents for the reporting of campus sexual violence
  • Training protocols for individuals at each college and university who are involved in handling sexual assault reports, grievance procedures, or disciplinary hearings

As the brief list above indicates, this bill would institute a number of measures designed to help student survivors of sexual violence and improve campus prevention and response practices. For example, a campus climate survey is incredibly important because it allows students to anonymously report their experiences at their campus. Rape and sexual assault are some of the most underreported crimes, so having an anonymous way to report those experiences will provide higher education administrators with a clearer picture of what is actually happening on their campuses. Seeing the full scope of this problem is the first and most important step in instituting meaningful changes. Making the results of these surveys public is also an essential component in adequately addressing campus sexual assault in Louisiana. Transparency increases accountability and the public deserves to know what is happening at the institutions they support and send their own children to.

As we watch what happens with this bill, we’ll be bringing you more information on some of the proposed provisions of it and how they can positively impact campus sexual assault in Louisiana.

The second bill we want you to watch is SB 37. This bill is exclusively focused on police training for sexual assault, and specifically targets public safety departments at our colleges and universities. When well-meaning police officers are inadequately trained to respond to survivors of sexual violence, those survivors can pay a terrible price. They can be questioned inappropriately about what they were wearing, if they were drinking, etc. What these types of questions can have the effect of doing is making a survivor of sexual violence feel that they are somehow responsible for their assault, when the only person ever responsible for a sexual assault is the person that commits it. Thus, it is extremely important that we provide our law enforcement officers with good training on how to respond to survivors of sexual violence. That is what this bill aims to achieve. Here’s how it would work:

  • The Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training would develop a sexual assault awareness training program.
  • Campus police officers would complete the sexual assault awareness training program.
  • The training program would provide modules on a variety of topics including: the biological reasons of how and why survivors may respond in different ways to their trauma, investigative training methods for collecting evidence and conducting interviews, and federal and state laws concerning victim’s rights.

These are the types of policy changes that can make a significant difference in the lives of student survivors of campus sexual assault. We’ll keep you updated as more campus sexual policies are introduced this legislative session.

 

 

 

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