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Campus Sexual Violence Bill Expected to Pass State House

The Massachusetts State House.
The Massachusetts State House. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Simon J. Levien and Austin W. Li, Crimson Staff Writers

The Every Voice bill, which would mandate additional support structures for people who have experienced sexual violence beyond existing Title IX provisions, is pending a vote in the Massachusetts State House.

Co-drafted six years ago by then-Harvard student John B. Gabrieli ’16, the bill requires Massachusetts colleges to conduct climate surveys, forge relationships with rape crisis centers, award drug-related amnesty to people who experienced sexual violence, and designate advisors for support.

Nora A. Gallo — co-director of the Every Voice Coalition, which is pushing for the bill’s passage — said she is hopeful the bill will finally reach the governor’s desk. She also described current federal provisions as “a skeleton of a framework of what survivors need.”

“One of the things the federal guidelines do is create space for state governments to step up and fill in the gaps to support survivors,” she said. “At this point now, we are just waiting for them to take action.”

At an event last year at Harvard, the Every Voice Coalition hosted State House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who publicly expressed support for the bill. This September, at a virtual coalition event, DeLeo said he is optimistic the bill will pass by the end of the year.

Over the summer, the coalition successfully pushed the bill into law in New Hampshire.

Concerns that the Every Voice bill conflicts with Title IX regulations previously stifled legislative action, Gallo said. Now, she said she thinks COVID-19 is the bill’s biggest obstacle to adoption.

Under the Clery Act, colleges are required to make crime statistics — including incidents of sexual violence — publicly available. Many universities have reported zero or one incidences of rape per year, according to Gallo.

“For the lived experience of a student on campus, they knew that this is simply not the case,” Gallo said.

To supplement these statistics, the bill would require colleges to conduct regular surveys of the campus climate around sexual violence. According to Every Voice organizer Navya T. Sebastian, these surveys are crucial to providing an accurate representation of the colleges’ culture.

More than 100 of the 160 State House members have co-sponsored the bill.

Bradley Freeman — a spokesperson for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, of which Harvard is a member — did not comment on whether AICUM supports the bill. He pointed to a statement from AICUM president Richard J. Doherty ’76.

“We are committed to continuing these thoughtful discussions to ensure the legislation advances the important work already being done,” Doherty wrote in the statement. “This issue is simply too important and everyone involved wants to get this right.”

Similarly, Antonio Caban, spokesperson for State Senate President Karen E. Spilka, did not comment on the bill’s specifics. Caban wrote that legislators “look forward to engaging with appropriate stakeholders” when the bill makes its way to the State Senate.

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.

—Staff writer Austin W. Li can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @austinwli.

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