Texas Senate passes sexual assault bill

Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer

The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 576, the Campus Sexual Assault & Violence Elimination Act on Tuesday and the bill will go on to be voted on in the House.

The bill, known as “C-SAVE,” requires that every public and private university employee and the highest-ranking member of a student organization report incidents of sexual violence to the institution’s chief executive officer within 48 hours of becoming aware of the incident.

“It is time that the State of Texas takes the appropriate steps to protect our students from all forms of sexual assault on college campuses,” said Sen. Joan Huffman, author of the bill, in a statement. “By confronting the prevalence of these crimes through the reporting required in C-SAVE, Texas colleges can take their first steps towards eliminating sexual assault and violence.”

Employees who fail to report an assault without “good cause” would be fired and charged with a Class B misdemeanor. The charge would increase to a Class A misdemeanor if the employee is found to have willfully concealed information about an assault. The bill requires that student leaders who fail to report an incident be suspended for a year or expelled.

“With studies showing 1 in 5 female college students experiencing some kind of assault during their time at college, it is imperative that victims and witnesses have a safe and reliable reporting structure,” Huffman said in a statement. “We cannot afford for victims to withhold information because they feel that they might be ridiculed or ostracized for reporting an allegation of a criminal act. The days when an outcry went unheard, unreported, or covered up are over in the State of Texas.”

Huffman represents District 17, which includes portions of Brazoria, Fort Bend and Harris counties. Huffman currently serves as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on State Affairs, vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and as a member of the Senate Committee on Finance.

The bill passed with a vote of 30-1, with Sen. Kirk Watson, a Baylor alumnus, voting against it after he attempted to amend the bill to allow for a student or employee to be excused from punishments if they failed “to make the report based on a desire to honor the alleged victim’s request for confidentiality.” His amendment was denied.

At the time of publication, neither the university nor Huffman’s office responded to requests for comment.