Addressing sexual assault on Massachusetts college campuses

Lawmakers proposed a "prevention and response" legislation

MGN/Nina Rodriguez/Flickr

BOSTON (WWLP) – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, and Massachusetts lawmakers hope to bring that number down.

More than 60 legislators support a bill that would institute programs, including emergency assistance and discipline policies, to respond to sexual assault on college campuses.

State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, (D) Pittsfield, said, “Some colleges in recent years have stepped up and tried to do better, but it’s not consistent across the board. We know that we need to do better and that we need to make sure that all college students in Massachusetts, it doesn’t matter which college you go to, are protected.”

One UMass graduate student, who didn’t want to be identified, told 22News that the bill needs to do more to protect students who are taken advantage of in mentoring situations. She said many feel powerless to come forward against tenured faculty after sexual assault.

She said, “I’m afraid of retaliation. I’m afraid that my opportunities will be taken away. If you’re a member of a marginalized group, then the University doesn’t protect you in the same way.”

Students told 22News that the bill needs to do more to address loopholes, such as relationships between graduate students and their mentors. They want the state to create policies that eliminate university conflicts of interest when faculty are involved by creating third party review groups.

The state’s Committee on Higher Education is reviewing public testimony and is expected to vote on the bill next month.