Virginia’s attorney general on Thursday delivered 21 recommendations for the state to improve its response to campus sexual assault, in an effort to eliminate and prevent such attacks and to “bring critical issues out of the shadows”.
Mark Herring, also chairman of the state’s sexual assault task force, suggested Virginia should enact preventive measures across its education and criminal justice systems, and coordinate a comprehensive response to reports of assault.
“Every student needs to know that their school and their state are committed to keeping them safe and encouraging their success,” said Herring, while delivering the report to Governor Terry McAuliffe at the Patrick Henry building in Richmond. Minutes before, McAuliffe signed two bills concerning campus sexual assault.
Herring provided his report following the final meeting of the Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, whose members included campus administrators, sexual assault advocates, law enforcement officers, attorneys and health professionals.
McAuliffe, a father of five, including two college students, announced the formation of the task force in August 2014. Herring noted that two incidents in the state “cast a little brighter light on our work than we anticipated when we started”.
The state is home to the University of Virginia, which has been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal since Rolling Stone magazine ran a since-retracted article about an alleged assault on the campus in November 2014.
Earlier this month, University of Virginia dean Nicole Eramo filed a defamation lawsuit against the magazine.
In April, a member of a University of Mary Washington feminist group, Grace Rebecca Mann, was killed in her off-campus residence. Members of the group, Feminists United on Campus, filed suit against the school in May, alleging “a systemic failure to protect them from a sexually hostile school environment”.
The suit does not accuse the school of being responsible for Mann’s death.
“No one should fear that they will be a victim of sexual violence, nor should they fear that reports of sexual violence will be met with suspicion, or worse, indifference, when it is reported,” said Herring on Thursday.
The taskforce approved 21 recommendations that fall under five themes: preventive measures, minimizing barriers to reporting, developing partnerships to create a coordinated response, ensuring compliance through transparent policies and building on the work of the taskforce.
The taskforce also advocated for efforts to extend to the state department of education, so it could “incorporate healthy relationship programming” in K-12 schools.