New Hampshire’s Comprehensive Campus Sexual Assault Law Sets Other States Model



A comprehensive New Hampshire law passed last year regarding sexual assault in higher education institutions that offers additional protections and services to victims now serves as an inspiration to activists in other states seeking to enact similar legislation .

Andrew Echols, a junior at New Mexico State University, got involved with New Mexico’s Every Voice branch just weeks before the law was passed in New Hampshire last June, and he said seeing this happen was a great motivator.

“It was a big, energizing moment to realize like, ‘wow, this is something the couple is happening in my state, this is something we could do for our community,'” Echols said.

A bill similar to the one passed in New Hampshire on college campus sexual violence was introduced in the New Mexico state legislature in January.

The success of New Hampshire’s bill – one of the most comprehensive in the country for filling gaps in federal Title IX protections – was in large part due to the efforts of New Hampshire students who partnered with education organizations. defending local rights to lobby for its adoption. The students are part of a volunteer-run organization called the Every Voice Coalition, which now exists in several states.

“By simply passing the bill, New Hampshire has sent a loud and clear message: ‘we believe you, we hear you, survivors’ voices matter, student voices matter,” said John Gabrieli, one from the founders of Every Voice. “I think this is a message that will reverberate across the country and we certainly hope to trigger a domino effect, a tidal wave of state changes that will put these same protections in place across the country.”

New Hampshire passed its “Every Voice” bill in the last legislative session with bipartisan support against seemingly unlikely odds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, colleges and universities are scrambling to implement the law, which could impact students far beyond Granite State.

Many victim advocates have said federal changes made by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos left gaps due to cutbacks in protections for survivors, and the New Hampshire bill was designed to provide greater protection to survivors at the state level where this is not specified. Federal guidelines emphasize fair process, while New Hampshire’s “Every Voice Bill” focuses on the experience of campus survivors. However, the state bill does not directly contradict federal guidelines.

“This legislation has been intentionally drafted to be as flexible as possible so that if schools are already finding solutions, it will not require redundant efforts or destroy the progress made,” said Gabrieli. “It’s supposed to be flexible so that it sets a floor, not a ceiling, for what campuses can do and gives schools a degree of autonomy in how they apply those protections.”

What the law does

One thing the new law requires are memoranda of understanding between colleges and local rape centers so that survivors can access free and confidential off-campus support. While many schools already have partnerships like this, the new legislation codifies it.

“It takes the experiences here in New Hampshire and many of the best practices that many campuses have established and unifies them, so that all campuses adopt a unified response,” said Pamela Keilig, public policy specialist for the NH Coalition Against . Domestic and sexual violence. “Especially around the climate survey and making sure the training and resources are the same.”

Another new requirement is data collection, through the creation of an anonymous statewide campus climate survey that will be administered to college and university students every two years, in the hope to collect more information on the matter. The state of New Hampshire has been tasked with forming a task force to create the survey questions that will be rolled out to colleges and universities.

The governor’s office is currently in the process of selecting members of the task force, and they plan to start work in early March, according to the education ministry.

Deirdre Loftus, Title IX coordinator at Keene State College, said she was eager to see mandatory climate surveys implemented in New Hampshire, having previously worked with them in New York.

“Climate surveys are great at the individual campus level, they give you a much better idea of ​​what’s going on at your institution than your reporting numbers,” Loftus said. “More broadly, a statewide initiative like this one that has consistency in the questions will give you a better sense of where you stand as a New Hampshire school collective.”

‘Important information’

Sharon Potter is Professor at UNH and Executive Director of Research at the Center for Research on Innovations in Prevention at UNH, which focuses on strategies for preventing and responding to sexual violence. Potter said surveys can be a very effective tool for data collection.

“If the questions are good and administered well, that everyone in the population has an equal chance of being reached by the survey, so that you get a representative sample of students on campus, it can really provide administration with a lot of important things about their institution, their student experience, ”Potter said. “It also allows them to assess whether their prevention and response plans are working. “

Potter also said schools that use incentives, like gift cards or sweepstakes, to encourage students to complete surveys tend to have better response rates. Having respected campus figures, like the president of the institution, encourages them to take it, that also helps.

“I think people are inundated with polls,” Potter said. “So the incentives really matter. The more people the students respect encourage students to take a survey, the more effective it is. The voice of the administration really matters.

The bill also establishes a requirement for sexual violence prevention training for students and staff, and confidential counseling for survivors. The bill ensures the protection of the amnesty so that students who report sexual assault do not face punishment for drug or alcohol use, which supporters say could discourage reporting.

Change model

“For so long there has been such stigma around survivors coming forward, blaming the victim,” Gabrieli said. “We have victims and survivors even today who come forward and be asked what they were wearing, what they were drinking, even facing disciplinary action if they were to drink or use drugs. “

The implementation is different on each campus, depending on the structures already in place. Kathryn Kiefer, coordinator of the NH Campus Consortium Against Sexual and Interpersonal Violence in the NH Attorney General’s Office, has worked to help colleges and universities with this process.

“We are working on implementation planning, so that campuses have internal resources, where the campus is located, where they need to be, how they need to get there, and how everyone can share the resources they need. with each other on how to get there, ”Kiefer said.

At Keene State, Loftus said most of the changes they’ve had to make are behind-the-scenes operations, meeting scheduling obligations for hearings and providing students with counselors for the cross-examination process.

“I did not find it difficult in our review of the sexual misconduct policy to comply with both the Every Voice Bill and the Title IX Final Rule,” Loftus said. “There were components of the two that improved on each other, and there were pieces of the Title IX Final Rule that Bill Every Voice improved upon.”

Becca Lawrence, Title IX coordinator for Southern New Hampshire University, said the university already meets many of the requirements of the bill. She said they were using federal guidelines this year regarding the hearing process, including the rules for cross-examination. They use state guidelines to facilitate new relationships with outside crisis and advocacy centers.

“The law is the law, so we implement what we have to implement, each institution has to find what works best for their student body,” Lawrence said. “For us, having such a large population online, we’re thinking about virtual audiences and things like that, we’re thinking about how to implement federal guidelines in that way. We are so big that we have a lot of technology that we can use to take advantage of. “

Elizabeth Cook, a senior at Augustana College in Ill., Said seeing the bill passed in New Hampshire last summer was “inspiring,” and added that New Hampshire’s success has the potential to have a impact on movement in its condition.

“Knowing that this is something that has been adopted in other places, knowing that it is important to people across the country and that it can also be brought to Illinois, will definitely have an impact on the our organization’s credibility and importance as well, ”said Cook.

Massachusetts passed a similar campus sexual violence bill in January, which includes memoranda of understanding with rape centers, an amnesty policy for those who speak out, and an investigation into the climate on campuses, similar to New Hampshire provisions. Similar bills were introduced in Connecticut and Hawai’i this year.

“Every state is different, we don’t believe in one law. However, there are some basic things that all students and all survivors should have access to, ”said Gabrieli. “Obviously one day we would like to see this become a federal standard and we hope that states like New Hampshire can lead the way in implementing these kinds of comprehensive policies and demonstrating the impact it will have on students and the survivors of our state. . “

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