Campus sexual assault bill signed into law - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Campus sexual assault bill signed into law

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Connecticut is now being called a leader in the effort to prevent rapes on college campuses.

The first bill of its kind was signed into law on Tuesday coming after a lawsuit filed against the University of Connecticut by a group of women who say they were raped and the university did not take them seriously.

The current lawsuit against UConn has had an impact and may have prompted lawmakers to act on this sooner than later.

Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the bill into law in an effort to prevent sexual assaults on college campuses and also to teach schools how to respond.

"The strengthening of our law is significant. It marks the willingness both here in Connecticut and around the country to talk very openly about oppressing social justice, criminal justice and public health problems," said Laura Cordes, who is the executive director at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.

"This is not about any single reported case," Malloy said. "It's about what's going on college campuses in the state and around the country."

Yet a highly publicized lawsuit at UConn pushed lawmakers to get a sexual assault bill passed this session. 

A group of current and former students say they were assaulted and when some came forward, they were insulted and humiliated.

The bill provides better prevention training for staff and students on college campuses and requires colleges to work closely with sexual assault groups. 

Jennifer Wenderoth with the Rape Crisis Center of Milford said she feels that partnership is crucial. Wenderoth counsels students who have been sexually assaulted and she was also assaulted herself when she was 19 years old at Central Connecticut State University. Even though she reported the incident, the school lost her file and she was told later on there was a problem with the fax machine.

"This bill ensures all victims, whether they are students or employees of colleges or universities in Connecticut, know their rights," Wenderoth said. "It's also going to allow that they know their options as well so they don't feel lost after an assault ... not knowing what to do."

Eyewitness News reached out to discrimination attorney Gloria Allred about the lawsuit against UConn.

"While it is only one step in addressing the problem, we hope that it will prompt other states to pass laws that will address the problem of sexual assaults and rapes on colleges campuses," Allred said in a statement on Tuesday.

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