Attorney Jeffrey Eisenberg recently joined Red Meat Radio to discuss the legal issues surrounding reporting sexual assault on campuses.
The Utah House Judiciary Committee recently voted 8-2 in favor of introducing HB254 to the full House for consideration.
If this bill passes, it will grant college and university officials the ability to turn information about sexual assault cases over to the police with or without consent from victims, and will also require colleges and universities to offer these victims and witnesses amnesty from potential code of conduct violations.
The bill includes specific details about what campus employees must consider before approaching law enforcement, including whether the person accused of sexual assault has a history of sexual violence or a criminal record, whether the assault included a weapon, and whether the accused threatened additional violence against other students of the victim.
“No woman should ever go to the police after a brutal rape and find out that the institution knew about five other victims before her and did nothing to prevent her rape,” Representative Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, the measure’s sponsor, told colleagues. “That should not happen. That should produce outrage.”
Eisenberg Cutt Kendell & Olson attorney, Jeffrey Eisenberg, joined Representative Coleman in her presentation to members of the House Judiciary Committee. He is currently representing a Utah State University student suing the school over how it handled her sexual assault. The lawsuit states that his client’s attacker was previously accused of assaulting several other women, and that school faculty failed to act.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the hearing, Mr. Eisenberg told the committee,
“The reason nothing happened was that the university officials did not know what they could do and what they couldn’t do,” Eisenberg said in an. “If the current legislation is made law, it will provide better guidance to the employees of universities that if public safety is threatened, that threat can be acted on by reporting this to law enforcement.”
Opponents of the bill stated concern over the fact that victims would lose some of the power around controlling decisions made around reporting their assault, and could decrease the number of reported assaults. However, Universities already have discression to override a student’s request for confidentiality in the extreme circumstances outlined in the bill; such as when there have been multiple allegations against one perpetrator or if there is cause to believe that the alleged perpetrator may pose a threat to the victim or other student’s safety.
However, House committee members noted that current estimates show only three to six percent of all sexual assaults that occur on campuses are currently being reported.
“It’s hard for me to comprehend how it would have a chilling effect on something that is only being reported one out of 30 times,” Representative Tim Quinn, R-Heber said.
One of Representative Coleman expressed hope that this bill will enable Universities to work with law enforcement to give justice to victims and prevent future crimes.
“We’ve got professors handling evidence, administrators taking testimonies and kangaroo courts,” she said. “We need to pull in law enforcement where there is expertise.”
This bill will now face scrutiny from the full Utah House of Representatives, and may change as new issues are uncovered. No matter how this bill changes as it makes its way through the legislative process, all of us here at Eisenberg Cutt Kendell & Olson are committed to fighting for the rights of victims of sexual assault. If you are looking to speak with an experienced Salt Lake City lawyer, give out firm a call at (801) 901-3470 today, or schedule a free consultation by filling out our online form.