Pa. passes landmark assault-reporting requirements for colleges

"You can't solve a problem if you don't know the scope of it."

  • Katie Meyer

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania is in the early stages of enacting new requirements designed to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.

The two measures were passed as part of the state budget.

One requires colleges and universities to give students an online platform for reporting assault anonymously.

Tracey E. Vitchers, who directs the anti-campus assault group It’s On Us, said anonymous platforms can help survivors feel ready to file official reports, and can give schools data on the scale of the problem.

“The data shows that if a student reports at all, it typically takes them about 11 months to actually go into that process officially,” she said.

She added, “You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know the scope of it. And so this at least allows schools to have a sense of, how prevalent is this issue on their college campuses? Are there certain hot spots on campus that are being identified as problem areas?”

Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press

Doris Steppe, left, the vice president of the southwest Pennsylvania chapter of the National Organization for Women, starts their monthly meeting at a restaurant in Monaca, Pa. on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. Brittany Green of the Women’s Law Project speaks to the meeting from a small monitor about how people can register their thoughts on the proposed changes to the implementation of Title IX as it pertains to the sexual abuse regulations in education.

The other measure immunizes students who report assault from being disciplined for violating school rules.

Democratic Senator Judy Schwank of Berks County, who sponsored it, said it is “primarily about underage drinking, or possibly drug use.”

Schwank and fellow bill sponsor, Luzerne County GOP Senator Lisa Baker, noted that several colleges already enact measures like these.

Pennsylvania is the first state to make anonymous online reporting tools mandatory.

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