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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf threw his support behind a package of bills this week that bolster supports and protections for victims of sexual assault on college campuses.
The “It’s on Us PA” initiative includes four proposals that mandate colleges create clear standards of consent; strengthen on and off campus support for victims so they stay enrolled; teach preventative education to middle and high school students to help them identify sexual assault, harassment and stalking; and create a task force to study the prevalence of sexual violence among children in grades 7 through 12 and college.
“We have made a lot of progress in combatting sexual violence and harassment in schools, but we need to do more to ensure all of our students are safe,” Wolf said. “These four legislative proposals are the next step to preventing assaults and violence and ensuring victims get the help they deserve.”
The bills build on two laws Wolf signed in 2019 that created an anonymous online reporting system for sexual assaults and guaranteed that victims would not be punished school drug and alcohol policies after reporting an attack.
The state has also granted more than $5 million to 190 public and private colleges to address on-campus culture.
“All too often, student survivors are left on their own to figure out what they need, to help themselves heal through trauma while also managing their education and everything else that college entails,” said Ari Fromm, a University of Pennsylvania student and State Director for the Every Voice Coalition. “This is the first step to addressing survivor dropout.”
Tracey Vitcher, executive director of It’s on Us, said passing these “critical” pieces of legislation “we will make strides to prevent sexual assault and protect the rights of student survivors across the commonwealth.”
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, more than 418,000 victims of sexual assault in Pennsylvania are under age 18.
“As a society we must understand the physical, mental, and emotional toll the trauma of sexual assault has on each individual,”said Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, who sponsored the measure to study sexual violence among adolescents and teens. “We simply must begin having these discussions earlier in our students’ educational experience with the hope of having a positive impact as they transition to postsecondary institutions and through life.”
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Original Author: Christen Smith | The Center Square