Delegate Jon S. Cardin will introduce the first legislation in the Maryland history that will address campus security for victims of sexual assault. If approved, the legislation would require state colleges and universities to report all incidences of sexual assault on their campuses and to provide services for victims.
The legislation also calls for confidential sexual assault surveys to be distributed to students. These surveys are designed to more accurately capture the number and nature of sexual assaults on campuses. Each school will also be required to have a victim advocate on campus to provide confidential aid to those affected by sexual assault.
“The big question is: How will they utilize the victim advocate?” said Lauren Shaivitz, director of programs for CHANA, a counseling, helpline and aid network for local abused women. “Are they there to escort the victim? Is it a referral person, a one-time consultation, or do they stick with the [victim] from point A to Z? … Part of that has to be figuring out what happens to the perpetrator. That’s the one thing that I’m not sure is getting addressed [by the legislation], but you have to start somewhere. Sometimes you don’t see how badly that’s needed until you get the numbers.”
Nancy Cantalupo, a research fellow at the Victim Rights Law Center and for Georgetown Law and an adviser in Delegate Cardin’s effort to pass the legislation, said that the legislation would make Maryland a leader in innovative campus sexual violence prevention. Decades of research have shown that, although approximately a quarter of women will be victimized while in college, very few sexual violence victims ever report it to law enforcement or campus authorities.
“[The legislation] is good thing,” said Joyanna Silberg, executive vice president of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. “Big institutions often see themselves as being outside of the law. It’s important that they are all bound by the state laws like everyone else in terms of reporting assaults.”
Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor — [email protected]