Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice entered the nationwide discussion about campus sexual assault yesterday by announcing her office’s efforts to study and address the problem with local colleges and law enforcement. She made the remarks at a Touro Law Center conference on domestic violence and human trafficking on the occasion of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“A prospective student comparing colleges in New York should be looking at academic differences, not asking herself, ‘Where am I better protected against sexual assault on campus?’, said DA Rice, whose office has been in contact with college officials and who will be launching more formal discussions with local colleges, law enforcement and social service providers.
DA Rice, who noted that Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State University of New York recently announced a “Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights” covering SUNY campuses statewide, noted that private colleges need a similarly thorough approach and noted four ways to address campus sexual assault that her office is focusing on. As prepared for delivery:
Create an all-encompassing school policy for reporting sex crimes that establishes a comprehensive and consistent process for sexual abuse allegations so that victims can make an informed choice about whether or not to involve law enforcement.Clearly delineate responsibilities between campus authorities and law enforcement so that when a sexual assault occurs both parties can work quickly to investigate the crime — a critical consideration when dealing with time-sensitive evidence in sex cases.Establish a uniform, fair and professional system for campus disciplinary proceedings to handle complaints of sexual violence.Work to clarify the issue of sexual consent by discussing updates to campus sexual assault policies that replace the old “no means no” standard with a stronger standard of affirmative, conscious and voluntary consent. This is a complicated discussion, but one that many campuses are starting to have.“I'm looking forward to delving more into this issue to find out ways we can protect victims of sexual abuse, and to keep everyone safe on campus,” DA Rice said, “and that involves listening to ideas and working together to create a learning environment that’s free from violence of any kind.”
During her keynote address at the three-hour-long conference also featuring judges, prosecutors, students and advocates, DA Rice, a 1991 graduate of Touro Law, also cited the challenges posed to prosecutors by domestic violence and human trafficking, and showed the connections between the two crimes.
“There’s one girl picked up by police for prostitution wearing only lingerie, explaining to one of our prosecutors that her ‘boyfriend’ has her clothes, as well as her ID and any money that she has made by selling her body,” DA Rice said. “Of course we all know that this isn’t a ‘boyfriend’ at all, but a modern-day slave owner. This is human trafficking today – and it’s happening right in our backyard.”