The New Hampshire State Senate recently introduced SB679: relative to policies on sexual assault in higher education institutions, a 14-page bill that would establish requirements for colleges and universities related to sexual violence. SB679 was discussed in a panel hosted by the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Students of Social Work (SOSW) and the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) in the Memorial Union Building on Monday.
The current process of reporting assault is not always friendly to survivors, as students attending the panel, at the panel leader, SOSW president and senior social work major Lily Clemons, described during the panel. The main issue, all agreed, was that the current process does not consistently allow for the privacy a survivor may want, and may artificially lower the sexual assault statistics on campuses because of the tedious work of reporting.
“How would someone want to answer that stuff without access to counseling?” Clemons said, pulling up an example of the reporting paperwork that can access for information such as the assaulter’s criminal history.
If passed, the bill’s recommendation will apply to all higher education institutions in New Hampshire, including community colleges, and private and public colleges and universities. The bill was introduced on Feb. 20, which Clemons and others interested in the bill’s passing attended at the New Hampshire State House in Concord.
Clemons was at the State House as the president of SOSW, but also as part of SHARPP. At the panel, Clemons passed out pamphlets and offered paper copies of the bill. The pamphlets came from Every Voice Coalition, a Massachusetts-passed political campaign started by survivors and their allies that pushes for sexual assault legislation, including a bill in Massachusetts. Co-founder John Gibralti reached out to SHARPP about encouraging public awareness of SB679, which put him in touch with Clemons.
Clemons outlined the bill during the panel, focusing on its six survivor-focused points, according to Every Voice: training on prevention and response to sexual assault, free medical and counseling services (listed as being implemented only “if available” in the bill), and confidential advising, so students will not have to report a sexual assault if they do not wish to.
Two of the other points refer to the law enforcement of sexual assault, with one point, written as “Amnesty” in the bill, being akin to a Good Samaritan Law: a student will not be charged or academically punished with an alcohol or drug-related offense if such occurred during the sexual assault. The last point mandates collecting publicly-available data on sexual assaults at higher education institutions. The bill also mandates that, as part of establishing a state-wide task force on sexual assault on college campuses, a member of the task force must be sufficient in statistics.
There are approximately nine total subdivisions of the bill, and the few Clemons did not focus on refer to the consequences of a higher education institution not adhering to the bill, as well as administrative changes institutions would have to implement.
Clemons concluded her panel with a description of the bipartisan support for this bill, a rather uncommon occurrence for bills going through the legislature.
“Everyone is excited about this bill…This is something that will most likely pass,” Clemons said.
Once the panel finished, Clemons opened up her presentation to questions, asking for feedback and comments on the bill, which she said was still not finalized and thus could be revised. Students focused on the “Trauma Informed Policies” subdivision, as they wanted to make sure this would ensure the policies were survivor-friendly. Students were also concerned that this bill would benefit survivors and not the public relations of an institution—that an institution could not manipulate its sexual assault policies and reporting work to create artificially low statistics about assault on campus. Other concerns centered on funding Title IX counselor(s), and mandatory education to all students about sexual assault, which is written into the bill.
Students interested in SOSW Clemons said can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org; those interested in getting involved with SB679 and Every Voice can contact email@example.com.