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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 3, 2017 09:31 AM
From: Representative Carol Hill-Evans
To: All House members
Subject: Task Force on Campus Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to create a Task Force on Campus Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault within the Department of Education.

In February 2015, we learned of the tragic death of Karlie Hall, 19, in her dorm room at Millersville University, at the hands of her boyfriend, who was convicted of third degree murder on May 2, 2016. While this incident was shocking, it should not be considered an outlier. U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that college-age women experience higher intimate partner violence rates than any other age group, with 20 percent having experienced violence from a current partner.

The alarming incidence and sometimes tragic results of campus intimate partner violence joins the far more publicized issue of campus sexual assault as important matters of public concern.

According to federal government data, Penn State University ranked first in the nation in the number of forcible sex offenses on college campuses from 2010 to 2012, with five other Pennsylvania universities ranked in the top 25.

Other recent news reports have outlined an incident at a State System university in which a student found responsible for sexual misconduct received the “punishment” of completing an online sexual assault training already required of all students. In the same case, it is alleged that the university failed to enforce a no-contact order against the perpetrator, and that university police officers publicly discussed the assault and made disparaging remarks about the victim.

An audit of the State System by Auditor General DePasquale reported that state system universities lack uniform procedures on complying with Title IX, leading to varying procedures with “various potential for effectiveness.”

This legislation is not designed to impugn the efforts of any of our colleges and universities to address intimate partner violence and sexual assault. I believe that most campus leaders understand the seriousness of these issues and seek to address them meaningfully. However, I also believe that an informed and comprehensive dialogue is necessary to ensure varied perspectives on these serious problems and the institution of best practices to prevent and respond to them.

The task force would be comprised of various individuals who serve our academic communities, including presidents of colleges and universities, police chiefs, judges, a psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker, students who demonstrate a commitment to the prevention of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, a representative of an organization representing the interests of LGBT students, and members of the House and Senate Education Committees.

The task force would be charged with holding at least three public hearings on college or university campuses when classes are in regular session. The Department of Education would publish a report containing findings of the task force as to the prevalence and causes of intimate partner violence and sexual assault on college and university campuses, recommendations to reduce the occurrence of such incidents on campuses across this Commonwealth, and recommendations to improve support mechanisms and services to students who are victims of intimate partner violence or sexual assault. In addition, the report would include recommendations to improve college and university disciplinary procedures and to ensure the proper involvement of law enforcement in cases of intimate partner violence or sexual assault on college and university campuses in Pennsylvania.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to make our institutions of higher education safer for all students.

Introduced as HB1633