Texas State should support the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act and work to make campus a safe and supportive place for victims of sexual and relationship abuse.
According to a Feb. 28 Huffington Post article, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Senate’s bipartisan version of the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that protects women against domestic and sexual violence. Controversy erupted within the House because the Senate’s Violence Against Women Act version contained some provisions for victims of abuse including the LGBT community and immigrant women that were not fully supported by certain members. However, despite the disagreements and some removed provisions, the bill is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk and will likely be signed into law very soon.
The Senate’s version of the Violence Against Women Act included a piece of legislation called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act. According to a March 1 Huffington Post article, this act is “the most significant legislation to address college rape in 20 years.” It requires colleges and universities nationwide to step up their procedures on reporting sexual assault, dating violence and stalking cases in their annual reports. If the bill is signed, the law will take full effect for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act addresses many of the secondary issues surrounding sexual assault. It defines what terms such as ‘sexual assault’ and ‘stalking’ mean within the bill, as well as outlines the rights that victims have when reporting crimes and seeking legal help. Educational programs focused on prevention and raising awareness on college campuses are also provided for within the bill.
The introduction of the Violence Against Women Act and the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act would be a great opportunity for Texas State to make further improvements in campus health services. The increased funding that the Counseling Center, which is increasingly unable to handle the amount of students seeking help, would receive under Violence Against Women Act is yet another reason for Texas State to embrace the bill. To further help Bobcats reap the benefits of the act, updated pamphlets detailing the main changes made by the bill could be distributed in the Health Center, raising awareness among the student body.
Whether students live on or off campus and whether they attend parties regularly or not is irrelevant. The risk of sexual and relationship violence is an ever-present threat. Students are already aware of these dangers and take precautions to protect themselves. The added protection the act provides will only help to alleviate fears both students and parents alike hold.
Promoting a feeling of security within the student body is a sentiment everybody should be able to get behind, even though individuals within the higher education community will inevitably disagree on many issues.
--Alex Pernice is a mass communication sophomore.