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Senator Peter J. Barnes III

Establishes Sexual Assault Task Force On College Campuses

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 was signed into law today.

The bill was 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 law helps to address this issue by establishing a sexual assault task force aimed at improving current practices and policies at colleges and universities.

“Sexual assault across college campuses is a very real problem that cannot be ignored,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Establishing a task force that will address this problem by identifying the underlying issues and relying on research and best practices to work towards improved policies and solutions is important to ensuring the safety of our students across New Jersey.”

The law, S-2812, establishes 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 is required to issue a final report with its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its organization.

“We need measures that will help our colleges and universities fight this rising and dangerous trend across campuses nationwide, and a task force to examine sexual assault prevention, response, and awareness is one step in the right direction,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Our higher education institutions must be equipped with the necessary information and resources aimed at prevention and at helping survivors, both men and women, of this violent act.”

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.”

The law takes effect immediately. The task force expires 30 days following the issuance of its final report.

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