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Legislation proposed in effort to stop sexual violence on college campuses

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    HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) — Nationally, one in 10 students have been sexually assaulted, yet only 10 percent report it.

Sexual assault is called a “silent violent epidemic” because students are afraid to come forward.

“This is an epidemic of sexual violence and young people need to step off the sidelines and roll up their sleeves and figure out how we can confront the problem head-on,” said Democratic State Senator Will Haskell.

On Thursday, students spoke out on a bill that could make college campuses safer.

There are two parts to the legislation, one that would make surveys mandatory so colleges can get a better sense of how students feel about safety, and the other would help to encourage students to come forward.

While some colleges have climate control surveys, this makes them mandatory. Surveys are a way to hear from students how the college is addressing sexual assaults.

Democratic State Rep. Gary Turco heard how a sexual assault affected one of his constituents.

“Causing her tremendous amount of stress for her being afraid to go to school, to go to class, having to transfer to another college within the state,” Turco said.

The legislation is a bipartisan effort.

“No longer is it acceptable to say this is how college life is. No means no, and nobody should ever endure the sexual violation of their own space,” said Republican State Senator Tony Hwang.

The other part of this bill would create amnesty, in an effort to get students to come forward, either those who have been a victim of sexual assault or those who may have witnessed something.

In many cases, there are drugs and alcohol involved preventing students from speaking out.

“If students don’t have the ability to come forward without that amnesty, they may fear sanctions and that’s something we hear from students through these studies,” said Bridget Koestner, who graduated from the University of New Haven and is now working for a support group.

Amnesty is an important part of this, which could encourage more students to come forward.

There will be a public hearing and then a committee vote.

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