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Astorino's Plan To Help Victims Of Sexual Attacks Does More Harm Than Good

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WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- County Executive Rob Astorino unveiled his own four-point proposal to crack down on campus sexual violence, saying Gov. Cuomo’s own plan does not go “far enough.”

The reality is, while his strategy is well intentioned, the plan is problematic, misguided and could harm students, rather than protect them.

Astorino’s policy would require college employees to turn over student records of rape or sexual assault to police, with or without the victim’s consent. This mandatory reporting would force survivors into a criminal justice system that often fails victims of sexual violence.

Rape and sexual assault are already the most under-reported crimes in the country. Even when they are reported, only one-quarter of them lead to arrest, one-fifth to prosecution, and just half of those actually result in felony convictions.

For many survivors, the fear of reporting their cases to police -- only to have them ultimately dismissed, and then become targets of retaliation – is a terrifying reality. Many also are reluctant to endure re-traumatizing investigations and lengthy trials.

Schools are required under Title IX of the federal civil rights law to take up every student complaint for investigation and adjudication. National outcry from angry student activists and government reports have highlighted college violations under Title IX. However, dependency on a criminal justice system that historically shortchanges survivors should not be substituted for much-needed substantive school policy reforms.

By tying a school’s response to police action, some survivors may decide not to report at all, creating an even more dangerous playing field for serial perpetrators because they have not been identified. His plan infantilizes victims of sexual violence, most of whom are female, by implying the system “knows what is best.”

Survivors, students, and advocates across the country have been shouting that mandatory reporting laws do not work in the college scenario. If Astorino really wants to protect and support students and survivors, maybe he should listen to them.

Lisa Hofflich is president of the Westchester Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

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