Revisions made to a federal sexual assault act will now include LGBT students. But for some people in UF community, the act is not enough.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, known as the Campus SaVE Act, focuses on how campuses report sexual crimes.
Chris Loschiavo, UF associate dean for student affairs and the director of student conduct and conflict resolution, said that the law is amending the Clery Act from 2011 that required colleges to report crimes that happen on campus but wasn’t specific in cases of sexual assault and how to deal with them.
“Not having clear definitions makes that a problem for campuses,” he said.
The act changes the qualifications of sexual assault for students from being between a man and a woman to being gender neutral. Loschiavo said this will hopefully help students who have been attacked in LGBTQ+ relationships to feel more comfortable coming forward and telling their stories.
LB Hannahs, the UF director of LGBTQ+ affairs, helped make suggestions for the legislation through the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. These new rules might help break down the myth of sexual violence being strictly man-on-woman, Hannahs said.
In Florida, religious groups are protected from discrimination, but sexual orientation is not. Hannahs said the new act, which went into effect Wednesday, requires UF to report all cases of violence, which is the closest sexual orientation has ever been to being federally protected.
UF is a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community because of its non-discriminatory policies, Hannahs said. However, LGBTQ+ communities on other campuses in the state and country may not feel the same.
Hannahs said it’s not about what’s in the new law but what’s missing. Because the law is not specific, other campuses could interpret it any way they like.
“The issue is not black and white,” Hannahs said. “It’s super gray and super complicated.”
Naomi Phineas, a victim advocate at University Police, said that the university has many avenues for handling cases of sexual assault. When students go to the victim advocacy office, they enter a confidential agreement where they can get the support they need without immediately launching an investigation. Once it’s reported to the dean, an investigation will follow, even if the victim wishes to stay out of it.
Most victims, no matter their orientation, are hesitant to report an attack because it often happens within social circles where the victim might feel judged by peers, Phineas said.
“People are reluctant to report, but they still need help.”