By Stefani Zenteno Rivadineira
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Bills to aid victims of sexual assault and to protect students on college campuses have passed the Virginia House of Delegates.
Delegates on Tuesday unanimously approved House Bill 1785, introduced by Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico. It would require campus police to notify the local commonwealth’s attorney of a victim-initiated investigation of a sexual assault case within 48 hours.
Massie said HB 1785 would foster better coordination among law enforcement agencies in investigating sexual assaults on campus.
“Mandatory reporting to the police could discourage students from reporting assaults. I believe this legislation strikes the right balance to improve the campus and law enforcement response without discouraging victims from coming forward,” he said.
On a 97-3 vote, the House also passed HB 1930, sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle. It would require “any responsible employee of a public or private nonprofit institution of higher education” to report to the institution’s Title IX coordinator any act of sexual violence committed against a student or on campus property.
All cases would be confidentially reviewed by a team that includes law enforcement. Moreover, the bill would require colleges to provide counseling services to victims and to inform them of all their legal options.
On a 72-27 vote, the House approved HB 1928, also introduced by Bell. It would add certain misdemeanors, such as stalking and indecent exposure, to the list of offenses for which a convicted adult must provide a DNA sample. The sample would go into a DNA databank that police can search when investigating crimes.
“It would make it easier for law enforcement to identify and quickly apprehend suspects,” Bell said.
Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, said the legislation would increase support for sexual assault victims on Virginia college campuses and make schools safer. “It will give law enforcement additional tools to bring offenders to justice and improve the response from our college and universities to sexual assaults and other acts of violence,” she said.
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