Legislators are seeking tougher measures to combat sexual assault on Texas college campuses, but there is a lack of consensus about how to proceed.
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, submitted Senate Bill 576. The legislation would require school employees and student leaders to “promptly” report instances of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or family violence to the school’s president.
The bill was passed by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration, reported the Texas Tribune.
Huffman’s bill has exposed divisions among sexual assault survivors and advocates.
Opponents of the bill say the decision of whether a sexual assault or another sexual offense should be reported should be the victim’s to make.
Austin Smith, an undergraduate student at the University of Texas told the Tribune:
“Really what we need to do is focus on what the survivor needs. A lot of people think filing a report is equivalent to finding help, but that’s not the case.”
Smith, a resident assistant in a campus dorm, is required to report sexual assaults if he finds out about them during his duties.
Under Senate Bill 576, a college employee who fails to promptly report sexual assault, stalking or harassment or under Senate Bill 576, could be fired by a university. Resident assistants, student leaders and other heads of student organizations face suspension for at least a year for failing to report a case.
The legislation would require the president of the institution to give a report to the governing board once a semester detailing the number of sexual assault reports that occurred, the number of investigations carried out as a result of the reports and any disciplinary action taken.
Huffman said she is concerned academic institutions have been covering up sexual assaults.
Lawmakers have accused Baylor University in Texas of seeking to conceal the full extent of sexual assaults on the campus.
A lawsuit brought by a woman in Virginia alleges she was gang-raped by two Baylor players four years ago.
The university in Waco has been in the grip of a sexual assault scandal for more than a year. It cost Baylor’s head football coach, president, and athletic director their jobs after an independent investigation suggested the athletic department leadership discouraged women from reporting sexual assaults and hushed up accusations concerning football players.
The federal lawsuit claims 31 players on Baylor’s football team committed 52 acts of rape from 2011 to 2014, far more was previously disclosed by university officials.
Rape is a very serious allegation. If you have been charged with this crime, you should contact an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer.