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Nev. students ask Assembly Committee on Education to provide support for victims of sexual violence

A woman in a black suit speaks into a microphone while sitting down.
Nevada State Legislature via YouTube
Amanda Vaskov speaks to the Assembly Committee on Education in support of AB 245 on Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Carson City, Nev.

Nevada students and victim advocates asked the Assembly Committee on Education Thursday to pass a bill that aims to boost sexual violence prevention and care in schools.

The committee received the testimonies as part of the presentation of the bipartisan Assembly Bill 245. Committee member Selena Torres of Las Vegas spoke on the bill alongside high school and college students.

Amanda Vaskov was one of them. She’s a student at the University of Nevada, Reno and the director of government affairs for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, or ASUN.

“In talking with my peers, it has become abundantly clear that sexual misconduct is a problem in our institution. One that is more common than we think,” she said.

The bill includes a three-pronged approach to the problem: training, support and research. In the K-12 space, the bill would require school districts to sign memorandums of understanding with non-profit victim support organizations and create clearer referral steps through the statewide SafeVoice program. The bill also creates a new task force on the issue, which would be responsible for research on best practices for prevention.

On the training front, it authorizes the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents to strengthen prevention trainings for students on college campuses and even offer credits for those classes.

However, Torres and others criticized the constitutional status of the Board of Regents, which merely allows legislators to authorize those steps, not require them. The Nevada State Legislature cannot interfere with the internal management of the higher education system.

Reno High School senior Lindsey Wolterbeek was one of a handful of victims who testified in support of the bill.

“I am a survivor of sexual violence. After my assault, I found myself at a loss for words on what to do, and navigating the aftermath of my trauma definitely took its toll,” she said. “After breaking my silence amidst my junior year last year and reporting my assault, I was disappointed from the lack of supports and the lack of system put in place in responding to my scenario.”

Others who testified shared how they felt they had no one to go to in the aftermath of an assault and that they tried to recover and handle the situation on their own.

As a note of disclosure, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents owns the license to this station.

The image included in this story is a screenshot from the Nevada Assembly Committee on Education livestreamed meeting on Thursday, Mar. 31, 2023. Click here to view the recorded video on YouTube.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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