The Northern Westchester Examiner

Astorino Urges for Stronger State College Campus Sexual Assault Bill

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By Isabella Fitzgerald

County Executive Rob Astorino proposed Tuesday how current state legislation addressing on-campus sexual assaults can be improved.
County Executive Rob Astorino proposed Tuesday how current state legislation addressing on-campus sexual assaults can be improved.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino released a four-point plan Tuesday in hopes of strengthening Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Enough is Enough” proposal that seeks to better protect victims of sexual assault on college campuses throughout the state.

Astorino was joined at Manhattanville College by Montrose resident Sarah Tubbs, a SUNY Stony Brook graduate and a victim of an on-campus rape, law enforcement officials and sexual assault victim advocates to formally announce the plan.

“Colleges have a right to create their own code of personal conduct for students, but they no longer should be defining and adjudicating crimes,” Astorino said. “That should be left to police and district attorneys.”

The sexual assault bill proposed by Cuomo is currently before the state legislature but would still allow colleges and universities to conduct sexual assault investigations and adjudicate the matters.

Astorino’s plan calls for a college or university employee to be charged with a Class B misdemeanor if he or she has knowledge of an alleged sexual assault and fails to report the matter to local law enforcement authorities.

It also requires colleges and universities to provide an independent victim advocate for students by having the schools enter into formal agreements with state-certified rape crisis agencies. Promotion of these services on campuses would be mandatory, as well as providing information for students at the beginning of the school year.

Another point is to enhance training of local police departments free of charge. The program, which Astorino called  “Start by Believing” training, is so law enforcement officials have greater sensitivity and knowledge on how to deal properly with sexual assault victims. Locally, the county’s police academy would provide this enhanced training offered by the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, Astorino said.

He also wants to see his proposed Victim’s Bill of Rights incorporated into the state legislation. It addresses topics such as appropriate interactions among local authorities, colleges and victims and establishes protocols on rape test kits.

In addition, Astorino asked that the county pay $20,000 to train advocates of sexual assault victims in Westchester.

Tubbs said she strongly supports Astorino’s efforts to seek justice against perpetrators of sexual assault after she said her own college failed her following her rape on campus. SUNY Stony Brook has yet to release the report of a rape test kit from her attack about two years ago.

“Something needs to change,” Tubbs said. “I do think this gives the opportunity for victims to be more supported.”

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