McAuliffe signs sexual assault bills

Photo John Robinson Photo John Robinson

In the wake of multiple tragedies involving sexual violence over the past nine months, Virginia lawmakers passed three bills on campus assault prevention and response policies that Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law May 28.

HB 1785, introduced by Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico), mandates that campus police notify the local commonwealth’s attorney of a victim-initiated sexual assault investigation within 48 hours. HB 1930, introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), and SB 712, proposed by Virginia State Senator Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), require that university employees made aware of a sexual assault notify the Title IX coordinator. Following the report, a special team is to be assembled to investigate the matter.

Bell said he believes both bills will help to reduce sexual violence on college and university campuses.

“I am very happy with both bills, and would hope they help address campus reporting and survivor support to protect both the person who was assaulted, while trying to prevent the next victim,” Bell said in an e-mail.

Although sexual assault has recently garnered more media attention, efforts to reform the reporting process in Virginia have been underway for several years. Gil Harrington, mother of 20-year-old Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington who was murdered in 2009 after attending a concert at John Paul Jones Arena, said she has been lobbying for such legislation for over four years.

“We have been speaking in the General Assembly in favor of external reporting of sexual assault on college campuses repeatedly since 2011 and are really pleased that this legislation has finally passed and will be signed into law,” Harrington said in an e-mail.

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