Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) was among six Assembly Democrats who sponsored a bill to better equip New Jersey universities and colleges to prevent and respond to sexual assaults and the bill was approved by the state Assembly last month.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The legislation was also sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Pamela Lampitt (D-6), Joe Lagana (D-38), Annette Quijano (D-20) and Joe Danielsen (D-17).
The 2014 report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault revealed that one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career. Even more staggering, the ACLU estimates that 95 percent of U.S. campus rapes go unreported.
“Campus sexual assault is on the rise, and scarier still, advocates say the numbers don’t tell the whole story since many assaults go unreported,”Mukherji said in a statement.
“Rape victims should never carry that burden alone. We must make changes so sexual assault victims feel empowered to come forward, and lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure school officials are properly equipped to respond.”
The bill (A-4156) would establish a task force to study and make recommendations concerning sexual assault occurring on the campuses of institutions of higher education in the state.
The task force would be comprised of the following 12 members:
1. The Secretary of Higher Education
2. The Attorney General
3. The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, or their designees
4. Five members appointed by the Governor, including a representative of the state colleges and universities,
5. A representative of the public research universities
6. A representative of the county colleges
7. A representative of the independent colleges and universities
8. A representative of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault
9-12. Four public members to be appointed by the Senate president, the Assembly speaker, the Senate majority leader, and the Assembly minority leader. The public members would have to include at least one individual who is a campus sexual assault survivor.
The task force would study and evaluate current policies and practices concerning campus sexual assault, identify problems and areas for improvement, and make recommendations concerning campus sexual assault prevention, response and awareness.
The bill was approved 78-0 by the full Assembly on June 25 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.