Conn. lawmakers pass campus sexual assault bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Five months after a group of women told lawmakers they were raped on the University of Connecticut campus, the state Senate Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that requires all institutions of higher learning to follow a strict set of guidelines concerning reported sexual assaults.

“It is a strong bill made all the better because lawmakers took the time to listen to the voices of victims, survivors, students and victim advocates,” said Jillian Gilchrest of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.

UConn student Rosemary Richi is one of five current or former students involved in an ongoing federal lawsuit that in part alleges that the school responded to their calls for help with indifference.

“I was raped by a member of the UConn football team,” Richi told lawmakers at the state Capitol in November. “I spent the next week in my bed.”

Added former student Kylie Angell, “UConn failed to advise me of the resources and options available to me and discouraged me from reporting to the police.”

State Sen. Steve Casano, a Democrat on the Higher Education Committee, said the women’s testimony was “clearly a message that something must be done.”

The campus sexual assault bill, which now heads to the governor’s desk, requires that every public and private institution of higher learning in the state:

  • Give victims the option of anonymous reporting of any incident;
  • Establish a trained, multi-disciplinary response team;
  • Establish a regular relationship with a community-based sexual assault crisis service center;
  • Give victims precise, written notification of their rights and options in any case of assault, violence or stalking.

“This is a situation that we cannot tolerate, must not tolerate, and must do everything in our power to be proactive,” said state Rep. Witt Betts, a Republican on the Public Health Committee.

The new rules do not apply to public high schools but lawmakers say they intend to tackle that next year.

“There should be awareness even at the junior high school level if we’re smart,” Casano said.

UConn’s lawyers have denied some of the major allegations made by the women, federal court documents show. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damage for emotional distress.

Mark Davis reporting

 

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