Hill-Evans proposes bills to create sexual assault task force, protect domestic violence victims
HARRISBURG, June 28 – State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans this week introduced two bills, one of which would establish a task force on campus “intimate partner” sexual assault and violence, and the other would allow a domestic-abuse victim to cancel a shared phone plan with his or her attacker.
Both bills were designed with intimate and domestic partners in mind, Hill-Evans said, because most victims of violence or sexual assault are attacked by a partner or someone they know.
“The circumstances behind intimate-partner and domestic abuse are often similar across cases, and I believe that a fresh look into the issues could help modernize the programs and laws designed to prevent this cruel form of violence and criminally charge those who choose to partake in it,” she said.
The first bill, H.B. 1633, would create the Task Force on Campus Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault within the Department of Education comprising various individuals who serve academic communities. This would include presidents of colleges and universities, police chiefs, judges, a psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker, students who demonstrate a commitment to the prevention of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, a representative of an organization representing the interests of LGBT students, and members of the House and Senate Education committees.
According to federal government data, Penn State University ranked first in the nation for the number of forcible sex offenses on college campuses from 2010 to 2012, with five other Pennsylvania universities ranked in the top 25.
“This legislation is not designed to impugn any of our colleges and universities' efforts to address intimate partner violence and sexual assault,” said Hill-Evans, D-York. “I believe that most campus leaders understand the seriousness of these issues and seek to address them meaningfully. However, I also believe that an informed, comprehensive dialogue is necessary to ensure varied perspectives on these serious problems and the institution of best practices to prevent and respond to them.”
The task force would be charged with holding at least three public hearings on college or university campuses when classes are in regular session. Under the bill, the Department of Education would publish a report containing findings of the task force as to the prevalence and causes of intimate partner violence and sexual assault on college and university campuses, recommendations to reduce the occurrence of such incidents on campuses across this Commonwealth, and recommendations to improve support mechanisms and services to students who are victims of intimate partner violence or sexual assault. In addition, the report would include recommendations to improve college and university disciplinary procedures and to ensure the proper involvement of law enforcement in cases of intimate partner violence or sexual assault on college and university campuses in Pennsylvania.
Hill-Evans’ other bill, H.B. 1632, would enable a victim of domestic violence who is not a primary account holder to ask a court to order the abuser to remove the victim from a shared telephone plan. In addition, the court would have the authority to order an abuser be responsible for any early termination fees associated with removing a victim from the shared telephone plan.
The legislation would have service providers waive for victims any fees associated with removing an abuser from a shared telephone plan and provide the victim with a new telephone number within 24 hours, if requested. Victims making such requests would have to do so in writing and provide valid proof of domestic abuse, such as a protection from abuse order. The bill also would provide for confidentiality on behalf of a telecommunications service provider with respect to a consumer’s personal information or documentation relating to domestic violence.
“For victims of domestic violence, being able to hide from or avoid an assailant or abuser may be the difference between life and death,” Hill-Evans said. “Hiding, however, may prove to be more difficult in today’s age of technology, especially when a victim and their abuser may share the same telephone plan.”