TSG’s New Sexual Assault Bill Faces Criticism

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1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. It’s a huge issue on college campuses and Temple is no exception.

Temple Update spoke to one student who was sexually assaulted 2 years ago. “I did not want that to happen. Nobody wants to have to feel like a victim,” she said.

The assault happened when another student came into her dorm room. The students knew each other, but the situation got worse when he started kissing her, although she tried to push him away. He also bit her arm.

The survivor says her assaulter texted her the next day and asked if she was okay. “He texted me, did it hurt? Was it bad? I was like of course it’s bad,” she said.  

And that’s when it all started to sink in. “In the moment, I was just shocked that it happened,” she said.

She reported the incident to Temple Student Conduct and they started investigating. Pictures of her bruised arm and the text from her assaulter, were all used to build her case.

She says her assaulter hired a lawyer who prepared dozens of questions. In the end, it wasn’t enough to prove she gave consent. He was ultimately proven guilty, put on probation and immediately removed from university housing.

Now, the survivor says she is trying to move on. But she still remembers the night it all happened. “It’s not just the physical bruises, its a social bruises,” she said.

Unfortunately, her story is not unusual on college campuses. That’s why Temple Student Government says its trying to do more for survivors. On Monday, parliament members passed the 60 Day Hearing Act. It’s a binding resolution that encourages Temple Student Conduct to investigate sexual assault cases within 60 days of them being reported.

The resolution originated from At-Large Representative Olivia Farkas. After is was tabled earlier this month, she solicited the help of other parliament members like Jacob Kurtz who says the bill “allows [survivors] to control their story line and control what happens to them.”

He argues that Temple’s sexual assault cases take too long to be heard. “The complainant would make the complaint and then it would take 6 months to actually get a hearing, which is quite frankly absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

All parliament members voted to pass the bill on Monday, but some, like Kamal Jain, wanted to postpone the vote. He was part of the group who originally tabled the bill earlier this month. He wanted to table it again at TSG’s most recent meeting, but was outnumbered. He says he still needs some clarification on exactly how beneficial it would be for survivors. 

His primary worry is that this bill would violate the due process rights of the accused. As it stands, the bill allows survivors to delay hearings to gather evidence, but not the accused.

Members behind the bill don’t see that as an issue. “Is it infringing a little on their rights? Maybe. But I think at the end, the rights of the survivor…should be prioritized a little more,” says Kurtz.

Andrea  Seiss, Temple’s Title IX Coordinator, is worried about the victims too. She handles all reports of sexual assault and there’s one thing she always assures survivors: “there’s no pressure. There’s no time limit,” she says.

It’s because some survivors just aren’t ready to face the person who assaulted them. So in reality, cases that took longer before, will still take longer now. “It’s not bad to be saying, ‘hey we’d really like to be putting this parameter out there’…as long as they’res an understanding that sometimes, we may not be able to stand by the 60 days” she explained.

Even Seiss says she doesn’t feel uncomfortable with how long cases are taking right now. According to her, most cases take 30-40 days.

The survivor we spoke to said her case took less than 60. She also said she’s not comfortable with Temple regulating the speed of these types of cases. “I don’t think its a good idea to try and regulate how quickly things should or shouldn’t be heard because there are things that do take more time for things to come to light” she said.

Parliament, on the other hand, is just happy they’ve started a conversation about sexual assault and that they’ve secured their place in Temple Student Government. “This is our legacy as the first parliament because this is the most important resolution that we’ve passed.”said Kurtz.

 

Note: If you have experienced or witnessed any incidence of sexual assault, Temple has several resources you can turn to including:

Tuttleman Counseling Services

Student Health Services

WOAR (Women Organized Against Rape 24 Hour Hotline)

-Title IX Coordinator

-Campus Safety

Wellness Resource Center

Student Conduct

-Risk Reduction & Advocacy Services

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