Legislators File Revised Campus Assault Reporting Bill
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 1 preserves the intent of the original legislation to ensure that victims of sexual violence on campus have full knowledge of the options available to them, including the criminal justice resources available in addition to the internal administrative processes led by their schools.
"As a mother of a daughter in college, our colleges should do a better job of ensuring all of our students are safe. Delaware's colleges and universities must do more to not only prevent sexual assaults on their campuses, but to support and respond to victims properly when they disclose these crimes to university employees," said Rep. Kim Williams, 19th District, D-Newport. "Over the last year, I have met with sexual assault survivors -- I commend these survivors for their courage to share the impact of their sexual assault experiences with me and their determination to advocate for other survivors."
A recent student survey conducted by the University of Delaware found that fewer than 5 percent of respondents who said they were victims of sexual misconduct on campus reported their cases to the university. Less than half of the students surveyed said they knew how to seek help after an incident of sexual assault.
Like the original bill, HS1 for HB1 would designate "responsible employees" at Delaware's institutions of higher learning who, when given a report of sexual violence, must take certain steps to ensure the victim is aware of their rights, as well as the confidential support services available to them. A "responsible employee" would also be required to offer to report a victim's case to police, if the victim so wishes. In the original bill, a report to police was mandatory.
"Campus sexual assaults are crimes and they need to be treated as crimes. As a state lawmaker, I feel obligated to make sure our state is taking these crimes seriously and to encourage a dialogue that empowers more survivors to come forward and share their stories," said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear. "This bill will ensure that Delaware universities are doing more to respond to victims of sexual assault in an appropriate manner and will hold these institutions of higher learning accountable for their response to victims."
Additionally, HS1 for HB1 would require Delaware institutions of higher education to report their annual federal Title IX data regarding incidents of sexual assault and the outcomes of those incidents to the General Assembly, which would make the information available to the public. This will allow Delawareans to monitor the progress their colleges and universities are making as they continue to implement new and better policies to proactively combat sexual violence on their campuses.
The revised bill also builds on training requirements outlined in the original legislation, delineating penalties for institutions that do not meet benchmarks for teaching their staff and students about sexual violence, rules for reporting and resources available to victims.
In crafting the revised legislation, Reps. Williams and Longhurst worked with a broad community of sexual assault advocates from across Delaware, including those affiliated with the state's largest universities, to improve HB1 and ensure a victim-centered focus for the bill.
House Bill 1 was part of a bipartisan, multi-bill package introduced last year in the General Assembly that focused on policy areas where reform is needed for Delaware women. So far, seven of the 11 bills in this package have been signed into law. This includes House Bill 2, a measure that requires Delaware police officers and prosecutors to receive new periodic training related to sexual assault, and House Bill 81, which requires Delaware schools to publicly list contact information for designated Title IX coordinators, the officials charged with hearing reports of sexual misconduct and advising victims of their rights.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 1 will remain assigned to the House Administration Committee.