Legislators need to adopt the College Sexual Assault Bill in order to increase intolerance for sexual assault
On Tuesday, February 24th, Maryland legislators discussed a comprehensive bill aimed to reduce sexual assault on higher institution campuses.
According to the bill, lawmakers will require, by October 2015, “that the written sexual assault policy of each public 4-year institution of higher education and community college be expanded to include specified information related to domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, as well as additional information related to sexual assault.” This bill aims at successfully bringing sexual assault laws into the 21st century.
The bill comes after the Campus Sexual Violence Act (SaVE), a federal bill that required universities to, “expand the scope of their reporting, response, and prevention education requirements around rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking,” according to the state bill’s summary.
According to the bill, in 2013 sexual assault cases increased dramatically, the most it had in almost 15 years. In fact, many of Maryland’s higher education institutions, such as St Mary’s College and Frostburg State University, have been under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights because of their current policies.
Legislators are also advocating for an affirmative consent policy on sexual misconduct, or a “yes means yes” policy, in which consent is defined by the University System of Maryland Sexual Misconduct Policy as “knowing, voluntary, and affirmatively communicated willingness to mutually participate in a particular sexual activity or behavior.” In essence, if a victim does not say yes to sex, then there was no consent.
Specifically, this bill outlines what affirmative consent is and is not. For example it stated that, “lack of protest, lack of resistance, or silence does not constitute affirmative consent,” and that affirmative consent, “must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” It also stated that a person can’t affirmatively consent if they are incapacitated by alcohol, drugs or are simply asleep.
This is a positive step towards sexual assault prevention, simply because Maryland does not have a definition of consent within its criminal statutes, according to Nate Rabner, from Southern Maryland Online. Having a strong, uniform definition of consent for all campuses will prevent inequality in the justice system for victims of sexual assault.
According to Rabner, the bill also has a “Good Samaritan Clause” which, “would excuse survivors from punishment for violating conduct policies at the time of the event- for instance, if an underage student was drunk when he or she was assaulted.”
The clause aims to increase reporting sexual assaults on college campuses. According to the Attorney General’s report, only 13% of sexual assaults are reported nationwide. The problem cannot be solved if administrators do not know the extent of it.
In order to support the safe spaces Maryland colleges harbor, legislators must pass this bill as a first step to combat sexual assaults across the state. The good Samaritan clause will hopefully give victims of assault the courage to stand up to their perpetrators, but the broader definition of sexual assault and clear policy will give victims the optimism to hold their perpetrators accountable.