WEST CHESTER (November 8, 2021) – A package of four bills aimed at strengthening protections for students and preventing and combating sexual assault on college campuses has been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature, state Senator Carolyn Comitta said.
Comitta, a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, the Women’s Health Caucus, and the Senate Education Committee, is a strong supporter and co-sponsor of the four-bill package, which is part of the governor’s “It’s On Us PA” initiative.
“We all have an important role to play in reframing the conversation on sexual assault, empowering victims, and creating a safe, healthy, and welcoming environment for all,” said Comitta. “As legislators, it is our duty to support students and equip our higher education institutions with the tools necessary to prevent and stop sexual assault and violence on campuses.”
The bills are as follows:
- Senate Bill 730, sponsored by Senator Amanda Cappelletti and House Bill 1489, sponsored by Rep. Brian Sims, also known as the “Yes Means Yes” Law. It requires all postsecondary institutions in Pennsylvania to adopt policies with clear standards of what is and is not consent. The bill also increases access to comprehensive, coordinated, and confidential support and services for victims of sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
- Senate Bill 909, sponsored by Senator Steve Santarsiero and House Bill 1699, sponsored by Representative Karen Boback. The bills strengthen protections for victims of on-campus crime by requiring postsecondary institutions to provide written notification of rights, services, accommodations, and protective measures to students and employees who may be victims of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. In addition, they call for schools to provide protective accommodations or measures to victims regardless of whether they choose to file a police report.
- Senate Bill 785, sponsored by Senator Judith Schwank and House Bill 1490, sponsored by Representative Jessica Benham. This legislation requires schools to provide instruction to 7-12 grade students on how to identify and prevent dating violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking to help prepare and equip young people for safe and healthy futures.
- Senate Resolution 122, sponsored by Senator Vincent Hughes and House Resolution 108, sponsored by Representative Carol Hill-Evans. The resolutions call for creating a task force on secondary and postsecondary campus sexual assault and relationship violence. The taskforce, under the Joint State Government Commission, would focus on identifying, comparing, and analyzing the prevention and response policies of different educational settings relating to sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. In addition, it would evaluate the benefits or deficiencies of the use of response and prevention programs in postsecondary institutions.
Governor Wolf added, “We have made a lot of progress in combatting sexual violence and harassment in schools, but we need to do more to ensure all of our students are safe. These four legislative proposals are the next step to preventing assaults and violence and ensuring victims get the help they deserve. I commend the legislators joining me in this fight and urge the leadership in the General Assembly to quickly take up this legislation for a vote and send it to my desk.”
“The Pennsylvania Commission for Women is grateful for this new legislation that will help mitigate sexual misconduct on campus. This legislation has the power to protect so many young women and students who are at risk,” said Pennsylvania Commission for Women Executive Director, Moriah Hathaway. “We are proud to support the It’s On US PA campaign and encourage everyone to take the pledge. We will continue to work with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Governor’s Office, and the General Assembly to advocate for women and girls in Pennsylvania.”
“The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is grateful to join Governor Wolf in support of survivors of campus sexual assault. The It’s On Us PA legislative package will help strengthen sexual assault prevention and response on college campuses throughout the state and ensure students impacted by sexual assault and abuse have access to the support of rape crisis centers,” said Karen Baker, CEO, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
It’s on Us PA is a statewide campaign that invites everyone to play a role in ending sexual assault on college campuses. Launched by the Wolf administration in 2016, the Pennsylvania program is modeled on the success of the national It’s On Us campaign, an initiative of the Obama-Biden White House. It aims to effectively address and counter the culture of sexual assault on campus by opening a larger conversation about recognizing, identifying, and intervening in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To date, two of the governor’s It’s on Us PA initiatives have been enacted.
In addition, the administration has also provided $5 million in It’s On Us PA grants to 190 public and private post-secondary schools to help change the culture on campus.