Hwang champions proposal to help victims of sexual assault on college campus

State Rep. Tony Hwang, along with The Center for Family Justice, is calling for all private and public colleges in Connecticut to provide formal documentation to all victims of sexual assault that their complaint has been reported and explain their rights to get help.

The bill HB-5029, An Act Concerning Sexual Assault and Intimate Partner Violence on Campus, recently received a public hearing in the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“No victim should feel like they are not being taken seriously or made to feel making an assault complaint is a burden on the institution,” Hwang said. “We must make it absolutely crystal clear to our state college personnel that they provide an assault victim with the appropriate and necessary assistance.”

“Our agency provides 24/7 free hotline and counseling to any victim of sexual assault,” said Debra Greenwood, chief executive officer and president of The Center for Family Justice. “Victims should never be made to feel that they did something wrong, isolated or ignored. When someone says no and it is ignored they have been violated and the person conducting the rape must be disclosed as this person will repeat this act time and time again. Officials and mandated reporters have a moral and legal obligation to investigate every report. There is zero tolerance for this irresponsible behavior… always ask the question, ‘What if it was you, your child, grandchild or loved one. What morally, ethically and legally would you do?’”

Law enforcement is an important partner and Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara offered testimony.

“As the police chief serving two universities, Fairfield and Sacred Heart, I understand there needs to be consistent policies for reporting investigating and training around sexual assault and intimate partners violence on campus,” MacNamara said. “We respond to and interact regularly with the staff and students from both universities to ensure a safe environment.”

The proposal would require colleges to offer the option for any student or employee to report an assault anonymously and it would require universities to provide help to students both on and off-campus.

Colleges would also be required to establish a sexual assault response team (SART) to better coordinate the work of campus counselors, health service providers, special police force and others. In addition, the proposal requires that colleges work in partnership with local community-based sexual assault services providers to ensure that any victim can get access to free confidential counseling and advocacy services.

Representatives from Jane Doe No More, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (ConnSacs) have all endorsed the legislative proposal.

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