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CO Senate bill to require sexual assault response policy

If current legislation passes through the Colorado Senate, public universities will be required to have a specific policy in place to respond to cases of sexual assault.

Although this legislation is new to the state, its requirements are not new to Colorado State University.

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The bill, called the Campus Sexual Assault Victim Medical Care Bill or House Bill 15-1220, requires two things: that the university post information on its website about where one may receive a sexual assault medical forensic examination, and that the university “have a sexual assault training and response policy that includes training for staff, referral to victim advocates and transportation, or assistance in transportation, to the facility.”

If the bill is passed, each public university in Colorado must enter into an agreement with a local medical examiner who is able to provide sexual assault-related medical care. CSU partners with the Medical Center of the Rockies and provides transportation to its location, among other services.

“The only thing that I believe would change for us is possibly formalizing the agreement with the medical provider … but all of the basic provisions are in place,” said Dwight Burke, CSU director of support and safety assessment.

The bill will also provide funding “to increase the availability of sexual assault medical forensic examination programs in communities with an institution.” Its language specifies that it was created because of the high risk of sexual assault for college-age students.

There has been an increased focus on sexual assault policies in higher education, according to Burke, that has resulted in legislation trying to address its from a variety of angles.

“The advantage of something like this could be for outlying areas or smaller campuses, to help to make sure that those procedures and policies are fully in place. For us in particular at CSU, I think it’s in pretty full effect,” Burke said. “Having clear availability (of resources) and guidance on sexual assault, I think is a good thing.”

Several criticisms of this bill and of how universities handle sexual assault reports are unfounded, according to Women and Gender Advocacy Center Director Kathy Sisneros — for example, it can be beneficial that universities are not required to preform these tests on their own campuses.

“That’s a myth — ‘What do you mean? You’re failing our students because you don’t have (sexual assault medical forensic examinations) right here on campus’?” Sisneros said. “That’s actually not really what (students) are wanting. The understanding of trauma, and the understanding of student needs matters. Students actually don’t want this exam on their own campus. The anonymity behind it, and the trauma and the stress behind it — they actually want a little distance from their campus community.”

Although WGAC is in support of this bill, according to Sisneros, physical examinations after an assault on a college campus are often not the most important response. The tests done by a sexual assault nurse examiner are most effective for a stranger assault, which is uncommon among college students.

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House Bill 15-1220 was introduced to the Colorado Senate April 8, and assigned to the education committee. It must pass through Senate before it can be signed into a law.

Collegian Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @lemarie.

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