PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino detailed his proposal for toughening New York state's enforcement against sexual assault -- especially on college campuses.
During a news conference at Manhattanville College on Tuesday, Astorino was joined by Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, several victims' advocates and a woman from Montrose who was raped at Stony Brook College.
Astorino said his four-point plan would improve upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campus assault bill, which awaits approval by the State Legislature.
“Colleges are good at educating young adults,” Astorino said. “They are not good at investigating and prosecuting violent felonies, especially sexual assaults. That’s not their job. Not only are colleges ill-equipped to investigate such crimes, but an inherent conflict of interest exists when colleges attempt to do so. . . . That should be left to police and district attorneys.”
In Westchester, Astorino said county government will offer free training to all local police departments and victim advocates.
Astorino's main concern with Cuomo's proposal is that it imposes "an unworkable new standard of affirmative consent" adjudicated by campus conduct commissions, which he said adds more confusion rather than clarity.
Sarah Tubbs of Montrose said Stony Brook University has yet to release a rape test kit report from an attack on her nearly two years ago at its Long Island campus. After detailing the many obstacles she encountered in seeking justice, Tubbs received a long applause when she said she'll receive her master's degree in social work from Hunter College on Wednesday.
"I learned the hard way that colleges have no business handling rape cases. I honestly feel as though I was victimized twice, first by my attacker and then by the systemic failures of my college, Tubbs said.
Under Astorino's proposal,·colleges would be required to report an alleged rape or sexual assault to local police immediately. Failing to do so would result in a Class B misdemeanor for any college employee with direct knowledge of an alleged sex crime but failed to report it to police. It's the same penalty for failing to report knowledge of alleged child abuse,Astorino said.
Current state law requires colleges to report violent felonies, but not sexual assaults if the victim chooses not to. "A victim has the right not to report a rape to police, but a college official does not," Astorino said.
Further, colleges would be required to provide an independent advocate for sexual assault victims..
Police departments would be required to incorporate “Start by Believing” training into their curriculum, which Westchester will now offer at the county police academy.
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