Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Campus rape bill proposes additional hurdles for crime victims

UPDATE: For an opposing view, See Women-friendly Campus Rape Bill Sparks Disagreement


After only a little more than a year, Robbie's law is getting the scissors treatment from Tennessee legislators. This legislation was signed into law last April and is now facing evisceration at the hands of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Signed into law by Governor Phil Bredesen in April of 2004, Robbie's law mandated cooperation between campus and local police in major crime cases such as murder and rape. The legislation was named after
James Robert "Robbie" Nottingham, an East Tennessee State University student who was found dead in a pool of blood outside his on-campus apartment in Johnson City, Tennessee. Following the "investigation," Robbie's parents, Jim and Mary Nottingham, worked with legislators and representatives of Security On Campus, Inc. to successfully see the law enacted.

Now, it appears that there are those who just don't want to comply. As is all too common these days, when they don't like the rules, they simply change them.

Associated Press article dated May 2, 2005, published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, reports that the Tennessee House has passed a bill proposing to negate certain aspects of the bill regarding rape on college campuses. The bill proposes to put the onus on the crime victim with regard to reporting the rape to local officials.

In other words, when a woman is raped on a college campus including universities, community colleges, state technology centers, and any other college, the crime victim will be required to report to both the campus police and the local police department if she wants an investigation into the crime to proceed. If she is not completely familiar with the statute, most would assume that reporting the rape to the campus police is a report to the police. She would only have to make one report if she takes the initiative to go directly to local police because of her prior knowledge of the statute.

I don't think that is going to happen very often.

It appears to me that this is nothing more than a bill to keep the rape numbers on our state's campuses down. We wouldn't want those nasty old rape stats cluttering up the pretty campuses, now would we?

The hype that touts this proposed law as "being easier on victims" is just that - hype. This only makes it harder for a rape victim who wants to see justice done. For the women who prefer not to report the rape, this bill does *nothing*.

In an article in the Tennessean, Mary Martin tells it like it is:

Mary Martin, a former music executive who was raped in 1992, said that removing the mandatory reporting requirement would serve the colleges' interests more than the victims.

''I don't like people ducking their responsibilities,'' she said yesterday. ''By ducking that responsibility, it avoids any unnecessary publicity that would result in a lower alumni fund. And I don't care. Colleges are not exempt from being responsible citizens.''

Under the current law, Martin argued, a rape victim can simply tell police she does not want to cooperate; yet, the rape report would still be counted among the schools' crime figures.

The Senate Education Committee will take a look at this bill on Tuesday. That committee is headed up by
one of the original sponsor's of Robbie's Law - Jamie Hagood (R-6th District-Knox County.)

Contact the committee members. Let them know that we do not want this legislation enacted into law.

Tennessee Senate Education Committee:
Jamie Hagood, Chair;
Don McLeary, Vice-Chair; Jim Tracy, Secretary; Jim Bryson, Charlotte Burks, Rusty Crow, Ward Crutchfield, Stephen Cohen, and Bill Ketron.