“It is up to us to protect survivors and their right to seek justice,” said Sen. Lesser
BOSTON — Today the State Senate voted 39-0 to pass comprehensive legislation to combat sexual violence on college campuses with statewide policies for all higher education institutions in Massachusetts.
These policies include annual training for students and staff on sexual violence prevention as well as the distribution of information on resources available to survivors.
The bill also requires schools to designate a campus safety officer who can better coordinate responses between colleges, outside sexual assault services and law enforcement.
“One thing we know about sexual assault is that it is preventable with greater training and awareness. With these policies, perpetrators will be held accountable and colleges will be charged with taking action. Young people are counting on us to do something about this. It is up to us to protect survivors and their right to seek justice, to improve campus reporting systems and ultimately to end this scourge of violent crime on our college campuses,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser.
Sexual assault was a frequent topic of discussion in last year’s series of millennial roundtables, when Senator Lesser and his colleagues met with young people in cities and towns around Massachusetts.
At a roundtable in Amherst, the college students present acknowledged knowing someone who had been sexually assaulted.
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to research by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Because an overwhelming majority of these cases go unreported, the Senate bill also requires annual reporting on sexual assault so that the legislature can revisit the issue in the future and take further action if needed.
The bill was filed by Senator Michael O. Moore of Millbury, who serves as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education.
“As a legislator, and as a father, I recognize that there is more we should be doing to help prevent incidents of sexual assault on our college campuses,” said Senator Moore. “Through improved training, transparency and enforcement of policies, this bill supports initiatives that work to ensure our postsecondary institutions are implementing systems students can trust. The bill also helps to fill the void created by the recent rollback of Federal protections.”
“No one should be afraid to seek help after being sexually assaulted,” said Senator Cynthia Stone Creem of Newton, who was the lead co-sponsor of the bill. “This bill changes the conversation in all our state’s colleges and universities through increased training and awareness and promotes a culture in which sexual violence will no longer be tolerated or brushed aside.”
The bill now goes to the State House of Representatives.