Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has proposed that April be designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Texas in order to increase knowledge that leads to more prevention of sexual assault and punishment of criminals, and to authorize the regular observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month through appropriate activities in public schools and other places.
Canales’ proposal, written in House Bill 822, was overwhelmingly approved, 144 – 0, by the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday, April 2o, 2017. The bill will now go to the Texas Senate for their action.
“Today, we passed legislation out of the House to officially designate the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in an effort to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual assault,” Canales said. “We need everyone’s help to reduce sexual assault, and I believe that officially designating this month is a step in the right direction towards proactively reducing sexual assault.”
Sexual assault is a serious criminal violation of Texas state law.
Sexual assault, according to FindLaw.com, occurs when a defendant – intentionally and knowingly – commits any of a number of prohibited sexual activities listed under Texas’ sexual assault law without the victim’s consent.
( http://statelaws.findlaw.com/texas-law/texas-sexual-assault-laws.html )
Canales is the primary author of HB 822, with Rep.Stephanie Klick, R-Ft.Worth, Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Ft. Worth, Rep. Joseph “Joe” Moody, D-El Paso, and Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, serving as joint authors.
The legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process is the author (also called the primary author). The Senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution. The House of Representatives allows only one primary author, the house member whose signature appears on the original measure and on the copies filed with the chief clerk.
Both chambers also have coauthors, and the house of representatives has joint authors.
Coauthors of HB 822 were Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, Rep. Eddie Rodríguez, D-Austin, and Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston.
Canales, who is the House District 40 lawmaker, noted that in 2015 the Rio Grande Valley had 825 reports of sexual assault.
Canales’ HB 822 stems from a study commissioned by The University of Texas System, whose findings were released on Friday, March 24, 2017. The study titled Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments showed that sexual assault is an ongoing problem throughout society, including in the halls of higher education.
According to the report conducted by UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, almost 200 out of the more than 3,800 students who participated in an anonymous online survey reported being victims of sexual assault during their enrollment at one of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s various campuses.
Nine percent of the students who participated in the survey – almost 350 individuals – said they have have experienced unwanted sexual touching since they have been enrolled at UTRGV’s campuses.
“These figures are shocking, to say the least,” said Canales, an attorney who also serves on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, which shapes state laws to protect Texans, especially from violent criminals. “But through this legislation, and another major bill I am working on, we are going to help remove the shroud of secrecy over sexual assault, family violence, and stalking policies at our public universities and colleges.”
House Bill 1096, coauthored by Canales and Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, would require public universities and colleges in Texas to provide students and campus organizations with information about these crimes.
“If HB 1096 becomes law, but a public university or college fails to provide that information, that university or college would not receive any state funding,” Canales said.
On March 22, 2017, HB 1096 received a public hearing before the House Committee on Higher Education, whose chairman is Lozano. That measure is awaiting action, and Lozano has the authority to set the bill for a final vote by the nine-member committee.
Regarding the survey involving UTRGV, Founding President Dr. Guy Bailey shared Canales’ concerns over the findings.
“The results are disappointing, but acknowledging them is an essential step toward improving the safety of our campuses,” said Bailey. “I applaud Chancellor William H. McRaven and the UT System for commissioning this crucial study, and I applaud the students who courageously participated. Our next step is to use this invaluable data to review our existing programs and implement new ones that will help ensure a safer campus climate now and for years to come.”
At the national and Texas levels, statistics prove that sexual assault and related offenses affect millions of families.
“Sexual violence happens in every community and affects people of all genders and ages. The impacts of sexual violence affects individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole,” Canales said. “With the creation of programs, many can learn the facts about sexual violence and play an active role in changing misconception.”
Each year during the month of April, federal, state, and community-based organizations, rape crisis centers, government agencies, businesses, campuses and individuals plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.
The theme, slogan, resources and materials for the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign are coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center each year with assistance from anti-sexual assault organizations throughout the United States.
According to Canales, who noted, “Unfortunately, sexual assault is still all too prevalent in our society.”
here are some of the alarming figures:
• Women have a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted in the United States;
• Men have a 1 in 71 chance of being sexually assault in the United States;
• Just under 42% of female rape victims were first sexually assaulted before age 18;
• 6.3 million Texans have experienced some form of sexual assault in their lifetime, according to a study done at the University of Texas at Austin;
• In 2015, the total number of sexual assault incidents reported in Texas was 18,636. These incidents involved 19,537 victims and 19,648 offenders;
• Of the victims whose sex was known, 13% were male and 87% were female. The age group with the highest number of victims was in the 10 to 14 year old bracket; and
• Physical, mental and emotional problems that limit activities are nearly twice as prevalent among sexual assault victims (41.3%) than among non-victims (26.5%).
UT SYSTEM, UTRGV ANNOUNCE RESULTS OF STUDENT SURVEY ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MISCONDUCT
In an ongoing effort to provide the safest learning environment possible for students, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), in conjunction with The University of Texas System (UTS), on Friday, March 24, 2017, announced the results of an unprecedented, in-depth student survey that looks at the prevalence, perceptions and experiences around a range of acts of sexual assault and misconduct that affect students.
UTRGV’s full report, including a summary of existing programs as well as further commitments for action, can be found by clicking here.
The Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) report is the most in-depth survey of sexual assault and misconduct ever undertaken by an institution or system of higher education in the U.S.
Thirteen of the UT System’s 14 institutions participated in the survey in fall 2015 and early spring 2016. UT Health Northeast was exempted because it does not enroll enough students to protect their anonymity.
The survey is part of a $1.7 million multi-year study spearheaded by UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven and conducted by UT Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, led by Director Noël Busch-Armendariz, Ph.D.
The study is groundbreaking because 1) it uses both qualitative and quantitative research data to better understand, address and reduce acts of sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic abuse and violence and unwanted sexual contact on UT campuses; and 2) includes a longitudinal component in which researchers will repeatedly survey a select cohort of students to help understand their knowledge, attitudes and experiences over the course of their college careers.
“If we want to understand and continuously improve our campus culture in order to facilitate student success, then we have to be open and honest about our students’ experiences beyond the classroom, no matter how uncomfortable it is,” McRaven said. “I’m pleased that UT institutions have numerous, effective programs to serve victims of sexual assault and misconduct, and with new knowledge, we can and must do better. The findings of this study shine a brighter light on sexual assault and misconduct that affects UT students and give us a deeper understanding of how to address these problems.”
More than 3,800 UTRGV students of all classifications voluntarily and confidentially filled out extensive online questionnaire. Since the survey was conducted during UTRGV’s inaugural year, the results likely reflect student experiences at UTRGV and/or legacy institutions, The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and The University of Texas-Pan American.
Key findings at UTRGV include:
• Five percent of students reported having been raped since enrollment, and nine percent of students reported unwanted sexual touching since enrollment;
Sixteen percent of students reported having experienced student-perpetuated sexual harassment since enrollment;
• Eleven percent of students reporting having experienced stalking since enrollment;
• Many victims (72 percent) and non-victims (81 percent) reported believing UTRGV would take seriously a report of sexual harassment, stalking, dating/domestic abuse and violence, or unwanted sexual contact;
• Many victims (70 percent) and non-victims (78 percent) reported feeling safe on campus at UTRGV; and
• Many victims (67 percent) and non-victims (81 percent) reported feeling safe from sexual harassment at UTRGV.
“The safety and success of our students is a top priority, and this survey will allow us to build upon that,” said Kristin Croyle, UTRGV’s Vice President for Student Success. “We have already implemented programs, such as the Superhero Project, and will continue to work diligently to improve campus safety for all of our constituents.”
UTRGV is strongly committed to building and promoting a diverse, inclusive learning and working environment that is free of all forms of discrimination, including sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
Patrick González contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.
Link to Article: http://edinburgpolitics.com/2017/04/28/sexual-assault-awareness-month/
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