Op-Ed: New Protections for Young Victims of Sexual Assault Move Forward

Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes that a person can commit, and the lifelong consequences of these horrible actions are magnified when the victim is a child. As a society, we have a moral obligation to ensure young victims are given every opportunity to heal as best they can from the lasting impact of such a traumatic event.

Unfortunately, many victims who attend the same school as their assailant face the prospect of coming face-to-face with the person who hurt them on a daily basis. Most schools try to make some special accommodations for victims, including changing class schedules to minimize contact, but the sad reality is they cannot remove that threat entirely.

No victim should have to go to school every day with the looming possibility of being forced to see and interact with the person who hurt them.

That was the exact situation faced by one student in a school district I represent; a young woman who was raped by a classmate had to attend school with her attacker, even after the offender was charged and adjudicated for the crime. Her family faced an impossible choice – either allow her to potentially face her rapist every day, or change schools and have her lose the valuable support structure of her friends, teachers and classmates at a time when she needed them most.

As a parent, I cannot imagine the psychological damage that either possibility would have on a child who has already endured so much. That is why I have introduced legislation that would mandate the removal of any student who is convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault against a student who attends the same school.

While offering this critical protection to survivors, my bill also protects the due process rights of the accused. An assailant must be charged and adjudicated for the crime to trigger the option of expulsion.

I am pleased to report that the bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee this week, and I thank my colleagues on that panel for taking a positive step toward protecting young sexual assault survivors. They deserve nothing less than our unconditional support, love and understanding in the aftermath of their assault, and I am thankful we are one step closer to giving them the options they deserve.

I am hopeful that the bill will earn the support of the full Senate and House of Representatives so it can be signed into law in the months ahead.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

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