MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, March 24th signed into law a bill aimed at ensuring sexual assault victims and people who report sexual assaults can't be cited or disciplined for underage drinking.
Rep. Joan Ballweg, a Markesan Republican, introduced the bill in January in hopes the change would encourage more reporting of sexual assaults. According to a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report, about 80 percent of student rapes and sexual assaults go unreported.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel says Wisconsin colleges and police typically don't discipline or cite people for underage drinking if they're sexual assault victims or reported the crime. The bill's supporters say the measure will solidify that practice in statute.
Walker signed the bill late Thursday afternoon on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus.
Schimel released the following statement on this bill signing:
“Crime victims should never be afraid to come forward and under the Sexual Assault Victim Amnesty Bill signed into law today by Governor Walker, another barrier to reporting has been broken down for victims of sexual assault.
“Instead of worrying about receiving an underage drinking citation, a sexual assault victim can focus on deciding whether or not to report to law enforcement and seek medical help.
“This is a commonsense change to our law that has received the support of law enforcement, campus administrators, and non-profit organizations. Representative Joan Ballweg and Senator Jerry Petrowski deserve our praise for leading on the Sexual Assault Victim Amnesty Bill this session.”
The Sexual Assault Victim Amnesty Law prevents law enforcement from issuing a citation to an underage victim of sexual assault when he or she seeks the assistance of emergency medical personnel. This law also applies to a person who is present with the crime victim at the time of or immediately following the alleged assault.
Attorney General Schimel has been fighting for crime victims since the start of his prosecutorial career 26 years ago. He was recognized by the Wisconsin Association of Victim and Witness Professionals as “Wisconsin Professional of the Year” for his work on behalf of survivors of sexual assault. Currently, Attorney General Schimel leads Wisconsin's Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), which recently finished creating a rape kit test protocol and is now coordinating campus sexual assault efforts in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary team of law enforcement, education, victim witness, and legal professionals.