Virginia Launches Comprehensive Effort to Address Sexual Violence on College Campuses
RICHMOND--Governor Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring today announced a comprehensive effort to address sexual assault and violence on college campuses. A series of immediate and long-term actions will examine the ways Virginia colleges and universities work to prevent and respond to sexual violence, identifying and implementing best practices to promote a survivor-centered approach that meets the needs of students and each school's responsibilities under the law.
In a strong show of commitment, Governor McAuliffe, Attorney General Herring, the presidents of every public four-year college or university, and the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System have signed a joint declaration pledging to aggressively combat campus sexual violence.
“In our quest to build a new Virginia economy, it is critical that our students live and learn in an environment that is free of the threat of sexual violence,” said Governor McAuliffe. “As the parents of five children, two of whom are still in college, this is an issue that is deeply important to both Dorothy and me. Campus sexual violence is a nationwide problem, and the statistics are both startling and saddening.
“We can – and must – do more to protect our nation’s young people. And I believe by partnering with our public universities, Virginia can become a national leader on this very important issue.”
Attorney General Herring continued,"We are in the midst of a long-overdue national conversation about preventing and responding to sexual violence on college campuses and Virginia will be a leader in that conversation. The national statistics are appalling and behind each number is the story of a young person whose life has been changed forever. We're going to look at this from every angle—from how to minimize risk, to how to step in and stop violence, to ways to better address violence after the fact.
“We're bringing together the best knowledge and talent that we have and whatever resources are necessary to prevent sexual violence from occurring, and we're going to respect those who come forward to report it, and seek justice against those who perpetrate it. Every student in Virginia must know that if you report sexual violence or sexual misconduct, you will not be pressured, you will not be judged, and you will be treated at all times with the respect and compassion you deserve."
To coordinate Virginia's efforts to combat campus sexual violence, Governor McAuliffe has signed Executive Order 25 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence. The task force will be chaired by Attorney General Herring and include campus administrators, advocates, campus and local law enforcement, higher education attorneys, health professionals, cabinet secretaries and others who can recommend best practices on prevention of and response to sexual violence. The task force will provide a final report to the Governor by no later than June 1, 2015, and will make recommendations on an on-going basis.
In addition to the task force, the Office of Attorney General has begun a review with each college and university of current policies and procedures for prevention and response. The OAG will provide advice on possible revisions to be more effective and to meet all legal requirements, drawing from the combined experiences and knowledge of Virginia schools, the recommendations of the task force, and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Office of Attorney General will begin an extensive training program with college and university staff who are involved in the prevention of and response to reported instances of sexual violence to ensure they know how to best meet the needs of their students and their obligations under the law. On October 30 and 31, the OAG will hold a statewide summit in Richmond to bring together campus leaders for discussions about ways to prevent and respond to sexual violence and meeting the latest legal requirements.
According to statistics cited by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, one in five women in college will experience sexual assault or an attempted assault, and the assailant is usually someone they know. Incidents of sexual assault in university settings and beyond are widely known to be underreported and often miscategorized, with the National Research Council suggesting that 80% of incidents go unreported.
Governor McAuliffe’s executive order creating the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence is below.
ESTABLISHING THE GOVERNOR’S TASK FORCE ON
COMBATING CAMPUS SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Importance of the Taskforce
Nationwide, colleges and universities are increasingly aware of the necessity to combat sexual violence on campus. While institutions of higher education are typically safe environments for students to thrive, both academically and personally, sexual violence is an issue that colleges and universities should confront and strive to prevent.
Virginia’s colleges and universities have signed a Joint Declaration pledging to work together to prevent sexual violence. Moreover, they are each committed to providing an atmosphere designed to promote the fair and equitable investigation, adjudication, and timely reporting of sexual violence. Our institutions of higher learning already offer both mandatory and voluntary programs for awareness and prevention of sexual violence. For those adversely affected by sexual violence, Virginia’s campuses also furnish resources, or coordinate referral to external, community-based resources, such as counseling, medical care, and alternative living and educational environments.
Through this Executive Order, I am collaborating with the Attorney General of Virginia, who has a critical role as counsel to Virginia’s public colleges and universities, and encouraging leaders from college campuses, law enforcement, mental health, and advocacy groups, to seek and recommend solutions that will bring critical awareness and identify best practices to aggressively combat sexual violence on campus.
Establishment of the Task Force
Accordingly, with the authority vested in me by Article V of the Constitution of Virginia and under the laws of the Commonwealth, including but not limited to §§ 2.2-134 and 2.2-135 of the Code of Virginia, and subject to my continuing and ultimate authority and responsibility to act in such matters, I hereby create the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence.
Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence
The Task Force’s responsibilities shall include the following:
- Recommend best practices for protocols used by campus officials, including campus police, Title IX Coordinators, and others, to respond to sexual violence on campus.
- Recommend best practice to reinforce existing relationships and form new relationships between Virginia’s institutions of higher education, campus police, local law enforcement, commonwealth’s attorneys, crisis response centers, mental health counselors, and advocacy organizations, to include the development of a model memorandum of understanding that will delineate respective responsibilities for investigations, sharing of information, and training.
- Recommend best practices for policies governing sexual violence and associated procedures for the investigation and resolution of complaints, and revise such policies and procedures, if needed, to meet all legal requirements.
- Examine sexual violence prevention and awareness programs and recommend measures to maximize best practices for sexual violence training for students, faculty, and staff, as well as bystander intervention programs and mandatory training for incoming residential students, at all of Virginia’s universities and colleges.
- Recommend measures to encourage reporting of sexual violence.
- Assess the degree of accessibility of campus services and programs, coordination with community resources and programs, and efforts to make students aware of these resources.
Task Force Membership
The Task Force will be chaired by the Attorney General of Virginia. The Task Force will be comprised of the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Resources, Public Safety and Homeland Security, representatives of the higher education community, law enforcement, community advocates, health professionals, and relevant government agencies, not to exceed more than thirty members, as appointed by the Governor. The Governor may appoint any other person(s) and support staff deemed necessary and proper to carry out the assigned functions.
Task Force Staffing and Funding
Staff support for the Task Force's work during its existence shall be furnished by the Office of the Governor, and the Offices of the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, as well as other agencies and offices designated by the Governor.
The Office of the Attorney General will provide legal staff to the Task Force, both through the OAG representatives serving on the Task Force and others, as needed.
Necessary funding to support the Commission and its staff shall be provided from federal funds, private contributions, and state funds appropriated for the same purposes as the Task Force, as authorized by § 2.2-135 of the Code of Virginia, as well as any other private sources of funding that may be identified. Estimated direct costs for this Task Force are $5,000 per year.
The Task Force will serve in an advisory role and will provide a final report to the Governor by no later than June 1, 2015. The Task Force will issue other reports as necessary or as requested by the Governor.
Effective Date of the Executive Order
This Executive Order shall be effective upon signing and, pursuant to §§ 2.2-134 and 2.2-135 of the Code of Virginia, shall remain in force and effect for one year from its signing unless amended or rescinded by further executive order.
Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, this 21st day of August, 2014.
Terence R. McAuliffe, Governor
Levar M. Stoney, Secretary of the Commonwealth