Editorial: State domestic abuse, sexual assault bill step in right direction
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The West Virginia legislature has introduced a much-needed bill regarding public school education about dating violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence prevention.
House Bill 2974 is sponsored by a number of Cabell County delegates, such as Reps. Chad Lovejoy and Sean Hornbuckle.
Marshall University promotes programs and services for the prevention of these already. The Women’s Center on campus sponsors programs to make students aware of these issues. Incoming freshmen are required to attend a course about sexual assault as a part of orientation. The MU – It’s on You! Campaign, a combined effort of the Women’s Center, Counseling Services, Housing and Residence Life, Marshall INTO, The Office of Student Conduct, Student Health and the MU Community to Prevent Interpersonal Violence on our campus, works to promote bystander intervention.
Bystander intervention is a strategy for the prevention of violence, whether it be for sexual assault, partner violence, bullying or sexual harassment. The “bystander effect” typically deters individuals from helping in situations where they observe abuse taking place.
Simple education like this should not be introduced for the first time in college because it is not an issue that affects only adults. According to RAINN, people of the ages 12 to 34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault.
We can’t ignore the world that we currently live in. Sadly, children have to deal with harsh situations, and they should be aware of ways to step in when needed.
HB 2974 does not propose telling students anything they should not be exposed to at a young age. Obviously, there are certain conversations that someone can have with an 18-year-old that should not be had with an 11-year-old. The bill would require the education to remain age-appropriate.
West Virginia is known as a more conservative state, so this bill is a step in the right direction in regard to educating students about the world around them. They may not be able to recognize abusive relationships if they’ve never heard about domestic violence prevention. They may not be able to step in when they’re a bystander to assault if they’ve never learned about intervention methods.
An evidence-based program to educate students starting at a young age could work to bring down the high statistics of sexual assaults on college campuses, as well as helping children to handle situations more effectively throughout their lives.