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Friday, January 15, 2021

New legislation addresses sexual assault

Sexual assault procedures and resources on Western’s campus are under inspection as new measures proposed by the Washington State Legislature would enhance the existing resources for sexual assault victims on campus but also implement a task force to prevent campus sexual violence.

These new measures are proposed to the House Higher Education Committee in Bills 5518 and 5719.

Under Bill 5518, Washington public universities would be required to report all sexual assaults to the governor and the legislature with recommendations for improving campus sexual violence policies and procedures.

The bill also requires the university to make information regarding campus sexual violence confidentiality and reporting available to current and prospective students and employees. Universities are also asked to refrain from establishing different disciplinary processes based on the status or characteristics of the student involved in the case.

Bill 5719 would work towards reducing and preventing sexual violence by developing collaboration between campuses and law enforcement. Strategies to promote sexual violence awareness and improving student safety are also noted in the bill.

The bills passed through the Senate with unanimous support, said Joe Timmons, assistant director of government relations at Western, in an email.

Dr. Sue Guenter-Schlesinger, Vice provost for the Equal Opportunity & Employment Diversity Office, said the bills are a way of increasing the reporting and the understanding sexual assault options and resources.

“In addition, increased and more effective prevention efforts may result from the work of a state-wide task force that would aim to decrease and eradicate sexual violence from our campuses,” Guenter-Schlesinger said.

The Consultation and Sexual Assault Support group, also known as CASAS, is the main resource for Western students affected by sexual violence. It provides support for reporting incidents, and academic, medical, financial and emotional care.

Western students were also required to complete the EverFi Haven online course for training in understanding and confronting sexual assault.

Human services and Spanish major Shanni Hupf saw EverFi as an informative tool concerning sexual assault resources on campus.

“I thought it was good that Western is taking measures to help everyone know more about those topics,” Hupf said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Bills 5518 and 5719 could change how people understand and confront sexual violence on campuses, Guenter-Schlesinger said.

“These [bills] will hopefully increase institutions’ and the entire community of students, faculty and staff’s awareness of sexual violence and the state’s commitment to ensuring campuses are most effective in their efforts at preventing and responding to it,” Guenter-Schlesinger said.

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