Indiana Daily Student

Candidates discuss future of Lifeline Law

As part of their campus safety platform, the Hoosiers 4 Solutions IU Student Association ticket wants to expand the Indiana Lifeline Law so that victims of sexual assault can report the crime without being charged with underage drinking, according to a press release.

The Lifeline Law grants immunity from underage drinking charges to students who need emergency medical attention, and to bystanders or organizations who call for emergency help for these students.

Currently, the law makes provisions for medical emergencies related to alcohol abuse but not substance abuse and does not explicitly grant immunity to students who need medical attention due to sexual assault.

“Underreporting of sexual assaults is a huge problem for college campuses, and IU is no exception, so we need to take every step we can to remove doubts or fears about reporting these attacks,” Kelsey Gorman, Hoosiers 4 Solutions’ candidate for vice president of administration, said in the press release.

Sidney Fletcher, the presidential candidate for SPARC for IU ticket, said he agrees underreporting of assaults is a problem on IU’s campus and he thinks expanding the Lifeline Law is a good idea in general. However, he said he has not found any evidence of past cases where a victim of a sexual crime has been prosecuted for underage drinking after reporting the crime to the IU Police Department.

“It’s a legal impediment, and it ought to be fixed,” he said but qualified his statement by adding, “We think it’s less about the legal impediment and more about the culture ... the shame, the social anxiety, the social ostracism. We think building a culture of care is more important.”

Gorman said Hoosiers 4 Solutions does not question the IU Police Department’s professionalism and compassion toward victims of sexual assault. Hoosiers 4 Solutions’ representatives said in the release that they, too, believe underreporting is related to social stigma associated with sexual assault, but they want to ensure no one can be legally punished while reporting an assault.

According to the release, a survey by the U.S. Department of Justice showed 54 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

Kathryn Flanigan, the YOUniversity ticket’s candidate for chief of staff, said she agreed with Hoosiers 4 Solutions that encouraging victims to report crime is important, and it is necessary for people to know they are not going to be prosecuted.

YOUniversity is working to continue the current IUSA administration’s Culture of Care program to promote campus safety, she said, but they plan to focus on campus culture instead of working on state policy.

“I do think it’s encouraging to see that all of the tickets are recognizing this as an issue,” Flanigan said.

She said she thinks it is important for student leaders to work on decreasing the rate of sexual assault on campus and increasing the rate of reporting assaults by raising awareness of the right to report and be protected. They also want to promote bystander intervention.

Fletcher said SPARC for IU wants to encourage bystander intervention as well, and they are currently developing an optional course that would teach individuals and student communities to intervene in emergency situations and notice warning signs so they can take initiative and possibly prevent those situations.

He said they want to set goals to train a specific number of students in bystander intervention, and increase the capacity of training groups. He said he feels this would be helpful not only in preventing sexual assault and medical emergencies, but also bullying and harassment cases.

“We hope that in the short term a culture of care would increase reporting,” he said. “In the long term, the idea is to make the rates of sexual assault go down.”

Flanigan said she thinks public discussion by student leaders is powerful.

“I think we as student leaders should be focusing on the sexual assault issue because the numbers have shown that it’s not going away, it’s not decreasing,” she said. “Any efforts to reduce the sexual assault rate are good in my book.”

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