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Ceremonial Bill Signing Highlights Sexual Assault Reporting Requirements for Colleges

by Christine Stuart | May 20, 2014 1:09pm
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Posted to: Education, Legal, Public Safety, Mansfield-Storrs

Christine Stuart photo

Laura Cordes, executive director of ConnSACS

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined lawmakers and advocates Tuesday for a ceremonial signing of legislation that strengthens reporting requirements for sexual assault on college campuses.

Malloy officially signed the bill last week. But the issue, according to officials, was important enough to highlight at a press conference at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services in East Hartford.

While Tuesday’s event was partly congratulatory, Sen. Stephen Cassano, co-chairman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said he’s not going to rest on his laurels.

Cassano said he’s participating in the training and plans to become a sexual assault crisis intervener who can go to college campuses and talk first-hand to fraternities and athletic groups about the new law and sexual assault in general.

“We don’t just want to pass the bill, we want to make the bill work and that’s a critical part of the bill,” Cassano said.

The law includes a number of new reporting requirements that instruct public and private colleges to provide victims with clear, written information on their rights and options when they report an assault. It also requires schools to maintain trained Sexual Assault Response Teams and offers anonymous reporting options.

The Title XI lawsuit filed against the University of Connecticut by the now five past and present University of Connecticut students at the end of 2013 created the momentum for the legislation this year. Discovery in the case won’t being until March 2015.

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Asked if he thought the new law would comprise the state’s position in the Title XI lawsuit, Malloy said he thinks societal movement on this issue has taken place over generations.

“To some extent that activity has been expedited in the last few years, not just in Connecticut but around the country. This has become a national issue,” Malloy said.

He said the evidence of that is the White House report issued a few weeks ago. However, it’s likely that gridlock in Washington means it won’t get very far.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is pushing for a sexual assault “Bill of Rights” that would ensure that “institutional policies provide all students with rights that they deserve.”

The same day Malloy signed the bill, Blumenthal said it’s an important piece of legislation, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

“As good and important as the bill is, it goes only part way in providing rights that would be included in the ‘Bill of Rights,’” Blumenthal said last week. “. . . I commend the governor for supporting and signing it, and as I mentioned earlier the legislators who supported it, but a ‘Bill of Rights’ — contained in statute, codified in law at the federal level — is absolutely necessary to protect Connecticut students as well as others, millions around the country.”

Malloy accepted Blumenthal’s comments as both complimentary and critical Tuesday. He said the “reality is the federal government should respond to this issue.”

He suspects that at some point in the future, a sexual assault “Bill of Rights” or protections for reporting sexual assault in the military will be arguments that are won at the federal level — “just not this year.”

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