General Assembly passes Ackerman bill granting amnesty from alcohol charges to those reporting sexual assault
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
The bill (2016-H 7865), which now heads to the governor’s office, requires institutions of higher learning to adopt a policy which grants amnesty for violations of drug/alcohol policies for those who report incidents of violence, including domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.
“Less than 5 percent of campus sexual assault is reported to college or law enforcement authorities,” explained Representative Ackerman. “Since so many of the cases go unreported, it’s created a culture of rape in many colleges and universities, where perpetrators believe there will be no consequences. All they have to do is hunt for their next victim.”
To address the problem, Representative Ackerman led a House commission to study sexual assault on college campuses. After hearing testimony from victims, advocates, law enforcement officers and college administrators, Ackerman introduced this legislation to address one of the issue’s greatest stumbling blocks: fear of reporting the assault.
“Sexual assault is traumatic enough,” said Representative Ackerman. “Having an environment where victims are afraid to come forward for fear that they’ll be charged with a crime related to drugs or alcohol just makes it even worse.”
Americans were reminded recently of just how widespread the problem of sexual assault on campus is when a student from Stanford University was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman on campus. That student was apprehended by two witnesses and is currently serving a jail sentence.
“College students are adults — but just barely,” said Representative Ackerman. “Many of them are experiencing freedom for the first time. Unfortunately, for many, it’s freedom without responsibility. Add alcohol to the mix and it becomes a potentially dangerous situation. But that should never, ever, be used as an excuse for sexual assault. That sort of blaming-the-victim attitude just contributes to the rape culture that has evolved on college campuses.”
In addition to the passage of this legislation, representative Ackerman said she was gratified to see that a dialogue has been opened about the sexual assault.
“The conversation that has begun between law enforcement, college officials, victim advocates, legislators and the media will lead to greater awareness and greater outrage about sexual assault,” said Representative Ackerman. “And that conversation will carry over to families who will now understand the importance of having difficult talks with their children about staying safe on campus and the behavior that is expected of them.”
For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903