A bill that would change the way Georgia colleges and universities investigate sexual assaults on campus passed the House last week during Crossover Day, the day a bill must pass either the House or the Senate. Madison Cavalchire spoke to university students in Macon to see what they think.
Under current state and federal law, if they choose, college and university students can report sexual assaults to law enforcement, their school, or both, but House Bill 51 could change that.
"I'm nervous just sitting here talking to you about the bill, so I can't imagine how nervous a victim of sexual assault might be reporting an incident that occurred," said Mercer Law student Stephen Mulherin.
Mulherin says the bill might discourage students from reporting sexual assaults all together. The bill would require certain college and university employees to report sexual assault allegations to law enforcement.
University of Georgia Law student Danielle Goshen says some students want to resolve the issue internally, through a Title IX hearing at their school, instead of involving law enforcement.
"I think that going to the authorities has a certain stigma attached to it," Goshen said. "Sometimes they don't even want to press charges."
The proposal would also prevent interim disciplinary measures, like a Title IX hearing, from taking effect until a criminal investigation is launched.
"Just being able to go to your teacher and say, 'I don't want to sit next to them in class. I don't want to have to encounter this person that has harmed me again,'" Goshen said.
Supporters of the bill say sexual assault cases belong with the civil authorities, not colleges or universities. Mulherin says police involvement could protect the rights of both the victims and the accused.
"Someone can be sent to jail, as opposed to the school, where it might be expulsion," Mulherin said. "Being sent to jail is a heavier consequence, so that might be one benefit."
Title IX currently allows colleges to provide interim disciplinary measures to protect the safety and well-being of a possible sexual assault victim.
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