HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A group of Pennsylvania legislators is pushing to expand a campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses.
Six bipartisan bills aim to make it easier to report cases and improve efforts in grade schools.
Dozens of college students from campuses across the state joined legislators at the state Capitol on Wednesday to support the efforts.
“We launched this campaign to protect our children and our students,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.
Pennsylvania was the first state to join the national “It’s On Us” campaign under the Obama administration last year.
“We will have reached thousands of students in these efforts,” said Tyrell Mann Barnes, the student body president at Temple University.
The campaign aims to raise awareness, but Pennsylvania legislators want to take it one step further – into law.
The best way to minimize the impacts of trauma is to make sure it doesn’t happen,” said Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny), a sponsor of one of the bills.
Six bills include efforts to improve reporting practices, protect reporters, publish annual school report cards on handling sexual violence, and expand policy in K-12 schools.
“Young people suffer a lot of harassment and sexual abuse, and it doesn’t just happen on a college campus,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), who introduced one of the bills.
Child protection officials say 60,000 school-aged students experience sexual violence each year.
“When I was 12 years old, I was abused by a family friend, firefighter and policeman,” said Kayla Schneider, a sophomore at Lock Haven University.
Schneider says she was afraid to report it then.
“If we initiate this early and make them comfortable talking about it, that it’s not a bad thing, you’re not going to get in trouble,” she said. “Hopefully, there will be more reports about it and hopefully, we can stop it.”
The goal is to introduce the six bills by early fall.