Hearing Examines Campus Sexual Violence

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House Democratic Policy Committee CONTACT: James M. Dawes Democratic Policy Committee Phone: 717-705-2051 Fax: 717-772-9949 E-Mail: [email protected]

Democratic Policy Committee looks at raising awareness of sexual violence on college campuses

BETHLEHEM, Oct. 28 – The House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing today at Lehigh University to learn more about the presence of sexual violence on college campuses and how to raise awareness of the issue via legislation, according to Policy Committee Chairman Stephen H. Stetler, D-York.

Requested by state Rep. Keith McCall, D-Carbon, and co-hosted by state Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton/Lehigh, the hearing featured testimony from Dr. Peter Garland, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, State System of Higher Education; Dr. Mary Young, vice president of government relations, Pennsylvania Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; Lori Shorr, special assistant to the secretary of higher education, Pennsylvania Department of Education; and a panel from Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape: Diane Moyer, general counsel, and Jennie Seigler, technical assistance coordinator.

“Because of the increasing number of college sexual violence victims, this is a prevalent problem on our campuses that needs to be addressed,” Stetler said. “All the testimonies today prove that this is a problem that requires our attention. Representative McCall has introduced a bill that provides a guideline for colleges and universities to follow when creating and administering sexual violence education programs.” McCall added, “As many as 44 percent of the victims of rape and sexual violence don’t even realize that they were victims of crime. My bill would create rape and sexual violence awareness programs for all students entering Pennsylvania colleges and universities for the first time. By giving students the tools they need to understand the crime, many might avoid becoming a victim. And of those who do become victims of sexual violence, they will better know their options and have the security of knowing that they are not alone.”

Samuelson said, “It is clear from today’s hearing that students need to learn more about sexual violence. Victims of such crimes often blame themselves, are embarrassed to admit that it happened to them, or are confused or fearful of what would happen if they reported the crime. Educating them will empower them to prevent or report such crimes since they will be able to overcome the unjust stigma of being a victim.”

According to McCall, the programs in his bill would help students to better understand the issue of sexual violence, to develop risk reduction strategies, and to know what options are available to victims. McCall credits his former college intern Kathryn Zerfuss for presenting him the idea as well as researching and writing the legislation for him. Zerfuss completed the internship in McCall’s Capitol office via the House’s Bipartisan Management Committee Legislative Fellowship program. She currently is a research analyst for the House Democratic Policy Committee.

McCall’s bill (H.B. 566), which has bi-partisan co-sponsors, is currently in the House Education Committee.