Sponsor “very hopeful” about campus assault bill’s odds

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – A House lawmaker who’s been involved in the long-running effort to pass legislation aimed at preventing sexual violence on college campuses said Thursday she’s hopeful a bill will get over the finish line this year.

After Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday said he wanted the House to take up a bill (H 4418) addressing campus sexual assault by the end of this year, Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Every Voice Coalition co-chairs Nora Gallo and John Gabrieli joined the News Service’s “State House Takeout” podcast to discuss the bill’s history, its prospects moving forward, new federal regulations and what advocacy looks like in an era of social distancing and Zoom calls.

Ehrlich is the sponsor of a bill that that would require colleges and universities to conduct regular climate surveys to gauge the prevalence of sexual assaults on their campuses. The Higher Education Committee combined that bill’s language with other legislation dealing with college sexual violence policies, prevention training, and survivor resources.

The House and Senate last session each passed climate survey bills, but couldn’t reach agreement on final legislation.

“I think that the commitment is there, where the speaker’s in favor, the Senate has taken up these bills one way or another over the course of the few years, and I’m very hopeful and I’m reasonably certain, given the speaker’s assurances that something will get done this year,” Ehrlich said.

Gabrieli said students and alumni lobbying for the bill have been heartened by support they’ve heard from lawmakers.

“Now, what we want to see is action,” he said. “They call sexual violence a silent epidemic, but students and survivors have spoken out and made it clear what they need, and now the question is, how will our leaders respond to put those protections in place at the critical moment?” 

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