It’s time to enact legislation protecting sexual assault victims

Sexual assault is rampant on colleges and some politicians are passing legislation to help. Graphic by Maria Nevada

Will Patterson

The need for legislation to protect sexual assault victims is needed now more than ever.

The #MeToo movement has illustrated the tip of the iceberg—sexual assault has not been taken seriously enough by our society or by a legal perspective. It has been too easy for too long for assailants to live punishment and guilt-free.

The polarization surrounding the very phrase “sexual assault” has become palpable. Upon uttering the words, one can find themselves in the midst of a heated debate on how accusations are handled.

Out of left field, Gillette’s recent advertisement questioning masculinity brought about an insanely volatile online debate. The violent rhetoric from behind the safety of a keyboard illustrated just how far American culture has to come before we no longer need movements like #MeToo.

Even now, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s proposed changes to Title IX would lessen the responsibilities of colleges responding to reported sexual assault incidents and would potentially give more power to the perpetruators.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Women’s Resource Center sent out emails encouraging students to write comments on the proposed Title IX changes. Those who participated and sent proof to the Women’s Resource Center would be eligible for a $10 pre-loaded meal card to be used anywhere MavCards are accepted. The 60-day commenting stage of the proposal ended on Jan. 28.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) provides alarming statistics about sexual assault on college campuses. According to RAINN’s research, 11.2 percent of all students will experience some form of sexual violence through physical force, violence or incapacitation.

Nebraska state senator Kate Bolz proposed legislation to assist victims of sexual assault when dealing with law enforcement, medical treatment and legal proceedings. The legislation, dubbed a Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights, was Bolz’s first legislative action of the 2019 session, according to a press release from her office.

“Survivors of sexual assault have existing rights within our legal system and deserve to have information about these rights presented to them in a clear manner,” Bolz said. “This bill will provide survivors with important information about the formal and informal supports available to them in the medical system and about the options available to them in the criminal justice system.”

Bolz is setting precedent for the rest of the country to follow. Sexual assault survivors have suffered for far too long. Not only does Bolz lay out the groundwork for other state legislatures across the country, but she also provides a shining example of how Congress can begin to approach the national epidemic.