‘We have a lot of catching up to do:’ SC lawmaker proposes bills to protect sexual assault victims on college campuses

‘We have a lot of catching up to do:’ SC lawmaker proposes bills to protect sexual assault victims on college campuses
South Carolina lawmaker proposes multiple bills to help protect sexual assault victims.

COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - One South Carolina lawmaker has filed multiple bills in the Statehouse in an effort to change the conversation on sexual assault.

Right now, there’s a total of 15 bills in the Statehouse from Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (D), of Lancaster, to protect sexual assault victims. Four of them deal specifically with assault on college campuses.

“So many of these bills that I’m filing, every time that I research them, I think surely we already have a law that already covers that. But it turns out that we don’t,” Norrell said. “For example, we don’t even have a law in South Carolina that defines consent and that seems pretty basic. But it seems that our legislators in the past have sort of just ignored these issues and so we have a lot of catching up to do, starting with defining consent and going from there.”

For example, one of those bills would require all public universities to have a section on its website allowing a witness or a victim to electronically report allegations of sexual assault anonymously.

Another bill would allow a student who's in a class with someone they've reported for sexual assault to have the ability to drop the class without facing any academic penalties.

Norrell said many times sexual assault cases go unreported because of the fear of getting in trouble for being involved in other unrelated activities. That's why she introduced another bill that would prevent the university from taking action against a victim or witness of sexual assault from honor code violations like underage drinking or drug use.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of assaults go unreported because students say, ‘If I explain why I was there or what I was doing, it’s going to come out that I was drinking underage or I was smoking marijuana or something like that, and I don’t want to get expelled. So I’m not going to report my sexual assault.’ This bill would give amnesty to students to report a sexual assault,” Norrell said.

Leaders said the conversation around sexual assault has dramatically changed in recent years, especially in light of the “Me Too” Movement. Norrell hopes to continue shining a light on the issue and conversation is key.

To have that conversation is so important and it’s uncomfortable, and a lot of people would rather just not face the fact that sexual assault occurs. And when we do that, when we put our heads in the sand, then we’re enabling more sexual assaults to occur,” she said.

Norrell also filed a bill that would extend the Freedom of Information Act’s reporting of sexual assaults to private institutions.

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