Virginia school leaders meet to address sexual assaults

WASHINGTON — A group of university presidents in Virginia met Monday to discuss ways to work together in addressing sexual assaults on campus.

“This notion of being collaborative, sharing resources [and] perhaps having regional resource centers is one way we can expand our capacity, recognizing some of the budget constraints,” said Peter Blake, Director of the State Council of Higher Education.

Even before the explosive, now-discredited Rolling Stone article about a fraternity house gang rape at the University of Virginia, both Virginia’s governor and federal authorities mandated more be done to address sexual assault on college campuses.

“Every college and university, public and private in Virginia has stepped up its efforts in this area and is doing good work,” Blake said. “But there’s so much more that needs to be done.”

In June, a state task force on sexual assaults recommended that an advisory committee be established to coordinate research, best practices, legislative changes, technical assistance and consultative services.

The advisory committee expected to convene this fall will create concrete suggestions for how universities might work together to address sexual assault prevention, response and related law enforcement on campuses.

One idea, for example, is to have a pool of investigators who would go to different campuses to interview victims who might feel more comfortable talking with someone they don’t see at their home school all the time.

Blake says initiatives needing only administrative rulings could happen quickly, while others might require legislative or budgetary action that wouldn’t potentially begin until January 2016.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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