State

Cuomo signs sexual assault protection legislation

Logan Reidsma | Photo Editor

The two bills that Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Sept. 22 further define the act of sexual assault and the definition of the term consent as "Yes Means Yes."

Two new laws, extensions of New York state’s “Enough is Enough” legislation, aim to help victims of sexual assault.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sept. 22 signed into law two new bills that are geared toward strengthening the protection of sexual assault victims as a branch of “Enough is Enough,” which works to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

The bills are steps toward encouraging students who are victims of sexual assault to step forward by further defining the act of sexual assault and the definition of the term consent as “Yes Means Yes,” according to a press release from Cuomo’s office.

“If there isn’t a clear ‘yes’, it is sexual assault,” said Sarah Blagg, community affairs coordinator at the Sexual Assault Resource Center.

The bills will also continue a statewide conversation to prevent sexual assault and will ultimately allow students to find safety and support to heal, said Randi Bregman, executive director of Vera House.

“(These bills) will help victims get justice and realize that if they didn’t say ‘yes,’ then it is a ‘no,’” she added.

The first bill will extend the order of protection for a victim of sexual assault by a family member until the end of the defendant’s probation term. Previously, the orders of protection would often end while an offender was out of jail but still on probation, according to the press release. In addition, if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, they will have a required six-year probation.

The bill could close a “potentially dangerous” loophole to ensure the safety of victims, according to the release. Cuomo said in the release he is proud to sign this common-sense legislation into law.

The second bill signed into legislation will protect the exposure of victims who want to legally change their name. Previously, if there was a name change it was required to be published in a newspaper, but this new bill allows for waivers to be issued. The legislation “gives courts broad powers to consider a waiver application and makes clear that their discretion is not limited to a direct threat against a person’s safety,” the release said.

“This bill makes clear that courts must consider the total circumstances surrounding the name change when deciding whether to grant a publication waiver,” said New York state Sen. Diane Savino in the release.

SU was the first private school in New York state to join the initiative to end sexual assault on college campuses, and the university will continue to do what is already being done to build awareness on campus, said Sheila Johnson-Willis, interim chief officer for equal opportunity and Title IX coordinator.

New York state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited SU on Wednesday to give a presentation about the “Enough is Enough” legislation and raise awareness about sexual assault prevention.

The university currently has training sessions to expand awareness among students and is increasing resources available to students. The training sessions are extended to incoming students, student-athletes, fraternities and sororities in order to get more students involved in the conversation, Johnson-Willis said.

The university is also working to host an awareness week in which it will host activities throughout the week, including a public viewing of the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” a film about rape culture on college campuses, she added.

Blagg said the expansion of the “Enough is Enough” campaign is a good step toward encouraging students to step forward if they have been a victim of sexual assault, but that there is still a lot more to be done by the institutions since they are not set up to deal with all of this “in house.”

“This will help institutions come forward and realize that they can’t handle this on their own, so they can step forward and ask for help,” Blagg said.

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