MONTHS BEFORE Virginia became ground zero in the national debate over rape on college campuses, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed a task force to examine ways to combat campus sexual violence. It is to his credit that he recognized the need to address this serious issue. Even more noteworthy, though, is the thoughtful approach taken by members of the task force and the series of useful recommendations that resulted.
The task force, chaired by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) and composed of students, law enforcement officials and higher education leaders, issued a report last week outlining new strategies to help prevent sexual violence, better track its occurrence and improve how cases are handled and victims treated. Among the 21 recommendations: make it easier for victims to report unwanted sexual attention by using new technologies and offering online options, include more cooperation between colleges and police and improve training for those who investigate cases.
The recommendations are just a first step, but Mr. Herring told us he is optimistic about them being implemented because of the way the task force evolved. There was buy-in from those most concerned, including heads of Virginia universities and colleges. Some recommendations, such as retaining physical evidence from sex assault cases for longer periods of time, will require legislation, but others can easily be implemented through collaboration between college officials and local law enforcement.
The group’s work began before Rolling Stone magazine published its explosive, and later discredited, article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. That controversy, plus the attention that surrounded the disappearance and murder of U-Va. student Hannah Graham, put Virginia in the spotlight on the issue.
By taking a statewide approach and encouraging an exchange of ideas and information across higher education institutions and from law enforcement, Virginia sets an example that the rest of the nation might do well to follow.