A Maryland House of Delegates committee heard testimony yesterday on a bill that would require all state universities and colleges to administer an anonymous sexual violence survey every three years — to more accurately determine how many assaults are occurring on campuses — and  then report those findings to the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The legislation, sponsored by Del. Jon Cardin (D), would give both university and state officials a clearer picture of whether sexual assault prevention efforts are working, advocates said yesterday. Three campus rape survivors, including Feminist Majority Foundation Online Communications Associate Lauren Redding, testified to the committee, arguing that universities need to more aggressively tackle sexual assault prevention and reporting.

“Statistics show us that eight out of 10 of survivors don’t report their assaults to the university or police,” said Redding, a University of Maryland alumna. “So we really don’t have an accurate picture of how many rapes are happening and whether or not universities are allocating resources appropriately to truly eradicate this problem. Survivors typically want to tell people what happened, but don’t out of fear of being blamed. This anonymous survey would give them a safe outlet to do so. ”

Opponents of the legislation — including officials from Towson University, Frostburg State University and the University System of Maryland — said the survey would be a waste of resources and is unnecessary, because universities already have reporting practices in place. However, administrators were unable to tell the committee how much total funding is spent on prevention programs and exactly how many assaults were reported last year.

Victims Rights Law Center Fellow Nancy Cantalupo, who first approached Del. Cardin about the survey idea, also testified in favor of the legislation. According to Cantalupo, a similar survey at the University of New Hampshire that students weren’t mandated to fill out still had a 40 percent response rate.

Media Response: CBS Baltimore 1/29/2014; The Diamondback 5/11/2014, 1/30/2014

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