The following comes from state Rep. Tony Hwang, whose district includes Trumbull.
In an effort to better protect the rights of sexual assault victims on Connecticut college campuses, Public Safety and Security Committee member, State Rep. Tony Hwang (Fairfield & Trumbull) and other legislative committee members held an informational hearing at the State Capitol on Nov. 13. The hearing was called after female victims made allegations that the University of Connecticut has failed to pursue complaints of sexual assaults. Legislators heard testimony from both UConn officials and student plaintiffs in a serious and emotionally charged public hearing.
“All students need to know that our universities have appropriate policies and procedures in place for reporting violent assaults on campus and if needed, their pleas for help will not go unheard. A lack of a strong institutional response to an act of campus violence is inexcusable and sends an inexcusable and chilling message to future victims,” said Hwang. “Assault victims deserve a respectful and diligent due process investigation when reporting an alleged crime, not a cold shoulder from their university officials.”
Rep. Hwang is committed to education and prevention of sexual assaults on our college campuses and communities. In 2012 session, Hwang co-sponsored legislation that is now Connecticut law, which requires colleges to adopt, disclose, and include in their annual, uniform campus crime report one or more policies on sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The policies must include provisions for: (1) providing information to students about their options for assistance if they are victims of such violence, (2) disciplinary procedures, and (3) possible sanctions. Institutions must include the policies in their annual uniform campus crime report, and make them available to students, employees, and applicants for admission.
The bill also requires colleges to offer: (1) sexual assault and intimate partner violence primary prevention and awareness programming for all students and (2) ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns.
Debra Greenwood, CEO/President of The Center for Women and Families, a Fairfield County domestic violence prevention agency reinforces the importance of education and awareness. “It is critical for college campuses to secure safe campus environments by adhering to policy that support victims of sexual assault by advocating for them and utilizing organizations like The Center for Women and Families to help them in their endeavors.” Greenwood added that support and empathy is critical. “Victims blame themselves when an assault happens and it is the responsibility of the college campuses to help victims understand that there is “zero” tolerance for sexual assaults and to create an atmosphere that encourages the victims to seek help immediately! Advocates at our agency are professionals trained in working with victims of abuse and assure them that they didn’t do anything to wrong to warrant this vicious act of violence.”
Fairfield University offered its’ support of adhering to the legislative requirement and reaffirmed their mission in preventing sexual assault and violence on its campus. “Fairfield University is committed to providing a secure living and learning environment free of all forms of harassment and violence. The institution has a long history of, and been recognized for, providing a safe campus. This commitment is reflected in our policies, our compliance practices, as well as our mandated reporting procedures. Fairfield provides a myriad of sexual violence awareness training and prevention programs that are designed in accordance with best practices. We review and update these programs annually.”
Fairfield University partnered this September with the Center for Women and Families on a presentation to students about healthy/unhealthy relationships. This was in addition to programs we co-sponsored this fall with the Fairfield Police, and with CONNSACS (Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Service).
Rep. Hwang said, of today’s informational hearing, “We need to make sure our institutions of higher learning and in fact all educational organizations are following the new law to protect all victims of campus violence. Every state college and university is mandated to have a policy that addresses sexual assault, including reporting, counseling, disciplinary action. Once that policy is established it must be adhered to and enforced so every student can feel safe to report such crimes to campus officials.”
Rep. Hwang added, “Any failure to adequately implement these policies will have a chilling and damaging effect on victim’s willingness to come forward and report these violent crimes.”
The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County, Inc. (CWFEFC) is dedicated to strengthening women and families and to eliminating violence and abuse through education, intervention, advocacy, and community collaboration. http://www.cwfefc.org/
Rep. Tony Hwang in his 3rd term in the Connecticut General Assembly House of Representatives and represents the 134th District, which encompasses portions of Fairfield and Trumbull. Rep. Hwang is the ranking leader in the Government Administration and Elections Committee and a member of Public Safety & Security Committee which has oversight on Gambling and the Insurance and Real Estate Committee during the 2013-14 legislative sessions. Rep. Hwang is a member of the CT Innovation Life Sciences Business/Government Group and co-chair of the bipartisan General Assembly Bioscience Caucus.