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Campus Safety Outweighs Victims’ Right To Privacy, Lawmakers Say

Austen Diamond / KUER

The Utah House passed a controversial bill this week that would allow colleges and universities to report sexual assaults to law enforcement, even if victims ask for confidentiality.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, was motivated in part by an ongoing investigation at Utah State University, where a former student, Whitney Griffith, reported being raped by a faculty member. Griffith learned that the school knew of other allegations against the same faculty member, but for years did nothing about it.

Coleman said campus sexual assaults are felonies and should be treated as such.

“No person should ever experience a brutal rape and find out that the school, in a position of authority, knew about five other victims and did not fulfill (its) obligation under (the Clery Act) and under Title IX,” she said.

But many victim advocate groups are against the bill, saying assault victims should have the right to choose whether or not to involve police.

“We’re not supporting victims,” said Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City. Romero said the bill would “have a chilling effect” and worries it would discourage victims from reporting assaults.

The bill passed the House by a close vote of 41-33 and will next be heard in the Senate.

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