Assemblywoman Would Like to See College Update its Presentation to Remove Reported Burden on Victims
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle on Thursday urged Ramapo College to update its violence prevention program which has reportedly angered students and faculty because it appears to place the burden on victims, attributing the cause of violence to their behavior.
"Let's be clear - sexual assault is never the victim's fault," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "While I appreciate Ramapo's efforts to prevent sexual violence, their reported message is horribly misguided. If the reported description of their violence prevention program is accurate, then it represents a relic of a thankfully bygone era when the onus was usually placed on the victim. I hope Ramapo officials will listen earnestly to student input and update their program to make it more effective and reflective of the times."
Vainieri Huttle has long been an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, working closely with NJCASA (NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault) on several initiatives to prevent sexual assault, enhance resources for victims, and empower survivors, and sponsoring numerous pieces of legislation, including bill A-2640, which was unanimously approved by the Assembly in September.
The bill would make it easier for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to obtain restraining orders against their perpetrators when no demonstrable personal relationship between the two parties exists, such as when the attacker is a stranger or a casual acquaintance of the victim.
Under current law, a victim must have a previous or existing relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, in order to pursue a restraining order. Additionally, the defendant must have been charged with or convicted of an offense in order for the victim to obtain a restraining order, a prerequisite the bill would eliminate.
"For too long, we have made it the victim's responsibility to prove that he or she has the fundamental right to be safe, which is why the reports about Ramapo's violence prevention presentation are all the more upsetting," added Vainieri Huttle. "We need to move firmly away from this mentality and commit to the notion that our residents have the right to live free from any form of abuse, regardless of what they're wearing, the type of facial expressions they might give off or who their attacker is."
The measure now awaits consideration by the Senate