Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, February 19, 2019

New college sexual assault bill proposed in D.C. Council

AU students protest sexual assault in 2014 (Kristie Chua/The Talon).

All students enrolling in a District college would be required to take a sexual assault prevention course under a new bill proposed in the D.C. Council on Tuesday. 

Colleges would also be required to put a “prominent notation” on transcripts of students who are convicted of sexual violence — or when a student under investigation withdraws from the school. The note would remain on students’ transcripts if they transfer schools, apply for graduate school and enter the workforce.

Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At Large) introduced the legislation, citing figures from a recent survey that found 20 percent of women who attended college within the past four years were sexually assaulted.

“I am introducing this bill because we need to do much more to combat these assaults and protect the victims,” Bonds said.

AU is working with the D.C. area Consortium of Universities on the proposed legislation, University spokesperson Camille Lepre wrote in an email. In a statement, the consortium said they welcome the opportunity to discuss the proposed measures.

“The Consortium has been actively engaged on this issue for quite some time and believes everything possible must be done to address the problem of sexual assault on campus,” the group said. “The Consortium looks forward to assisting in the Council’s review of the legislative framework as the Council designs an approach which aligns with [federal] efforts and ongoing initiatives already in place.”

The bill, officially named the Postsecondary Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2015, was co-introduced with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Vincent Orange and Brianne Nadeau. Councilmember David Grosso also co-sponsored the legislation, giving it at least five possible yes votes if it comes for a vote before the 13-member Council.

The proposed law would also require institutions provide the option of a sexual assault advocate to be present when a school begins an investigation. All sexual assault officers mandated by Title IX, would have to undergo yearly “trauma-related training.” Colleges would also need to maintain a ratio of one on-campus sexual assault worker for every 2,000 enrolled students.

The legislation does not specify where students would need to take the sexual assault prevention courses or if their colleges will have to host them, but students would need to take part within the first six weeks of school.

“For too long we hear stories of women being raped, and the first question asked [is] ‘What were you wearing?’ or, ‘How did you handle that drink?’” Bonds said Tuesday. “These questions place the blame on the victim.”

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