HARRISBURG – Celebrating the first major state laws to combat campus sexual assault in recent memory, Gov. Tom Wolf held a ceremonial bill signing of legislation encouraging more students to report sexual violence.
The governor was joined by bipartisan legislators and state and national leaders of It’s On Us, a movement fighting against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women.
“I launched It’s On Us PA over three years ago as the nation’s first statewide campaign to address the crisis of sexual assault on campuses,” said Wolf.
“I commend the students and education leaders who embraced the need to change campus culture. Their tremendous efforts created the momentum for these new reforms to protect students.”
Two campus safety initiatives proposed by the governor were enacted as part of the new state budget package.
One proposal, championed by Sen. Lisa Baker and Rep. Dan Frankel, requires post-secondary institutions to offer online, anonymous options for students to report sexual assaults.
The other proposal, championed by Sen. Judy Schwank, protects students reporting sexual assault from being disciplined for violating school drug, alcohol or other policies.
“This bipartisan effort gives a voice to survivors and witnesses to report sexual assaults and break the silence that’s too often part of campus culture,” said Wolf.
“Sexual assault must never be tolerated and the reforms in these new laws create a path for more legislative progress in the future.”
“We have to do everything in our power to keep students across Pennsylvania safe from sexual harassment and assault,” said Schwank. “With five colleges in my district, this issue truly hits close to home and I’m grateful to First Lady Frances Wolf and Gov. Wolf for their support.”
“The reluctance of assault victims to report these acts to authorities blocks their chances for justice and helps understate the scope and severity of the problem,” said Baker.
“The requirement for colleges and universities to offer accessible and confidential avenues of reporting is a crucial beginning step in creating a safer campus environment.”
“Sexual violence knows no political affiliation,” said Tracey E. Vitchers, executive director of It’s On Us. “It does not discriminate. It affects each and every one of us – whether we ourselves are survivors or we know and love a survivor.
“This is why I am grateful for the bipartisan support both bills have had, and am thankful for the leadership demonstrated by Senator Baker and Senator Schwank in championing this legislation.”
Wolf also secured $1 million in the state budget to continue awarding It’s On Us grants to public and private two-year and four-year institutions. This will be the fourth consecutive year the Wolf administration will provide grants for programs to change campus culture.
The governor also invited Pennsylvanians to join the thousands of people, including superintendents and university and college presidents, who have signed the “It’s On Us” Pledge, which encourages everyone to help end sexual assault.
The It’s On Us PA Web site has more information about the campaign and pre-written tweets users can share on Twitter to encourage others to take the pledge.