Virginia Releases 21 Recommendations on Campus Sexual Assault
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has released the final recommendations of his task force on combatting sexual violence.
“Virginia is one of the only states in the U.S. to take a multi-faceted, statewide approach to this issue, and it shows: the 21 recommendations represent the best from victim advocates, institutions of higher education, law enforcement, students and survivors,” says the attorney general’s office. “And, this effort represents an unprecedented level of executive branch support.”
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The recommendations aim to engage campuses and communities in comprehensive prevention, minimize barriers to incident reporting, cultivate a coordinated and trauma-informed response, sustain and improve campus policies and ensure compliance, and institutionalize the task force’s recommendations and collaborations. Some of the key recommendations include:
- Improve and increase reporting options using emerging technologies, infographics and on-line portal options for reporting sexual violence: Campus sexual violence is underreported – a critical component of our recommendations involves minimizing barriers to reporting. By offering online reporting, phone apps and other emerging technologies, we are empowering victims with more options by meeting students on the mediums where they communicate.
- Direct each college and university to develop a comprehensive prevention plan: This may seem straightforward, but there has to be an up-to-date, comprehensive plan in place to prevent campus sexual violence. This prevention effort includes multiple exposures to prevention information within and across academic years, message adaptation for various audiences for key effectiveness, programs to engage bystanders and programs that bring awareness to the role of alcohol and substance abuse.
- Amend Virginia Code to require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to provide curriculum and training in trauma-informed sexual assault investigation: Knowing how to respond to a sexual violence survivor is key to both ensuring the victim feels safe and pursuing justice against perpetrators. A trauma-informed response uses evidence-based techniques to effectively compile information while minimizing additional trauma to the victim.
Specifically, the 21 recommendations are:
- Direct each college and university to develop a comprehensive prevention plan that will be supported and implemented by a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder team of administrators, faculty members, staff and students
- Include law enforcement prevention efforts as a part of coordinated campus and community sexual assault prevention
- Create a state-based small grants program to fund research and evaluation for sexual and gender-based violence prevention to assist in the development of evidence-based practices
- Encourage the Virginia Department of Education to incorporate healthy relationship programming in K-12 schools, covering topics around healthy relationship formation and the broad range of bystander intervention skills
- Improve and increase reporting options using emerging technologies, infographics, and on-line portal options for reporting sexual violence
- Issue a Clery-required Timely Warning Notice (TWN) for every report of felony sexual assault made within a specified time of the incident using a notification template that includes appropriate prevention messaging and resource information
- Pilot the “You Have Options” program with at least two law enforcement agencies (campus law enforcement agencies and/or municipal law enforcement agencies with at least one campus in their jurisdiction) within the Commonwealth
- Adopt the Start by Believing public awareness campaign, with the Attorney General and Governor playing prominent roles
- Amend Virginia Code § 23-9.2:10 to require public and private institutions of higher education to establish Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)
- Amend Virginia Code § 9.1-102 to require the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to provide curriculum and training in trauma-informed sexual assault investigation
- Follow the SANE Education Guidelines as set forth by the International Association of Forensic Nurses in all courses offered in the Commonwealth for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE)/Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE). In addition, SANE nurses practicing in Virginia should be certified SANE-Adult (SANE-A), SANE-Pediatric (SANE-P).
- Formalize partnerships between colleges and universities and local sexual assault crisis centers using a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), as required by new Virginia law, following a standard set of components
- Amend Virginia Code Sec. 23-234 (B) to require that institutions of higher education have MOUs with either the Virginia State Police or the local law enforcement agency and that MOUs with local law enforcement address the prevention of and response to sexual assault
- Amend Virginia law to require the collection and storage of Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) in cases of restricted reporting and to require that PERKs be retained for a specific period of time
- Conduct a study that results in establishing standards of care or metrics for response services and staff for responding to reports of sexual violence on campus (i.e. appropriate ratio of counselors and law enforcement officers to students)
- Develop guidelines to assist institutions in addressing their compliance obligations under state and federal law, regulation, sub-regulatory guidance, and other mandates governing how institutions of higher education respond to campus sexual violence
- Ensure fair and equitable proceedings for all parties, adequate support and due process for the accused, and sanctions proportionate to the severity of the offense
- Conduct a climate survey at every public college and university in the Commonwealth at least bi-annually to assess the incidence of campus sexual violence and use the data to monitor the effectiveness of prevention and response initiatives
- Establish an advisory committee of the coordinated by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) that will continue the progress made by the Task Force by coordinating research, best practices, legislative changes, technical assistance, and consultative services
- Convene a permanent advisory committee, board, commission, council or other such entity on School and Campus Safety under the Offices of the Secretary of Education, Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services
- Create a network for faculty members, staff, students and community members engaged in sexual violence prevention and education
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