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Senator Peter J. Barnes III

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Peter J. Barnes and Senator Sandra B. Cunningham that aims to protect college students from sexual assaults and to reduce violence on college campuses by establishing a task force received final approval today by the full Senate.

The bill is in response to the growing concern of sexual assault incidents on college campuses across the country. According to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, nationally. A study conducted by the Rutgers Center on Violence Against Women and Children along with The White House Task Force concluded that in order to effectively address sexual assaults at institutions, states must first identify the scope of the problem on its campuses. The bill helps to address this issue by establishing a sexual assault task force aimed at improving current practices and policies at colleges and universities.

“College campuses across the country are seeing a dangerous trend that is jeopardizing the health and safety of students,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Sexual assault is a serious problem that must be addressed through research and common sense practices. This is why establishing a task force that would help to identify underlying issues at colleges and universities is very important. Through this legislation, we will improve policies and practices at higher education institutions, provide the necessary support for survivors and ensure the safety of students across the state.”

The bill, S-2812, would establish a Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault, consisting of 12 members appointed by the Governor and members of the Legislature, to study and evaluate current policies and practices regarding campus sexual assault. The study would identify problems and areas for improvement, and make recommendations concerning campus sexual assault prevention, response, and awareness. The task force would be required to issue a final report with its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its organization.

“Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault –both men and women – and we know that these incidents can happen anywhere, including college campuses,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “We need measures that will help higher education institutions get the information they need to improve response methods and provide the resources necessary to help sexual assault survivors. Establishing a task force that will help to pin point problems and provide recommendations is a great first step in preventing and ultimately ending sexual assault on college campuses.”

In 2014, Rutgers University in partnership with the Obama Administration launched an initiative to help combat sexual assault on campus by conducting research and providing policy recommendations to help improve college and universities’ response to sexual assaults. The University conducted a pilot survey within the Rutgers University-New Brunswick campus. The survey found that one in four undergraduate women at the university responded as having been a victim of “some form of sexual violence before they ever set foot on campus.”

“Rutgers University is taking a proactive approach to this issue by conducting effective research that will improve institution practices across the state,” added Senator Barnes. “With these findings and further research through an established task force, we can provide solutions that will help to combat sexual assault on campuses and keep our students and communities safe.”

S-2812 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 38-0. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 78-0 in June. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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