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New bill could provide more privacy to college rape victims

SALEM, Ore. - A rape survivor and Oregon's attorney general came out in support of a bill Wednesday that would protect the privacy of sexual assault victims on college campuses.


Right now, if you're a college student and you tell a counselor or advocate about a sex assault, your school can legally find out what you told them.


Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor, told her story to a group of the bill's supporters on the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.


"I'm a survivor of a gang rape," Tracy said. "It happened in 1998 with four men, two of them were Oregon State (University) football players."


Tracy said the changes the legislation would make are critical.


"It is so shameful and so disgusting and so vile that you don't want anyone to know at first because you're so disgusted," Tracy said, "so to have someone that could be there for you and tell you this is what's gonna happen, this is what's gonna be expected, that you can confide in them and not have to worry about other people knowing is so important."


Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said Title IX, a federal law, requires counselors and other advocates to report information on alleged sex assaults to school administrators. She said the bill would undo that requirement so victims would have to give their permission before any of their information is released.


The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said the legislation was formed after state schools contacted them with concerns about how to handle sexual assault.


Supporters say they started drafting the bill before a University of Oregon student sued the school over its handling of a sex assault case. Among several allegations, that student accused the U of O of accessing her counseling records without her permission.


Rosenblum said the bill's protections are limited.


"I'm not gonna be able to assure you that under all circumstances all records would permanently remain private in the case of an independent, private lawsuit," Rosenblum explained.


Interim University of Oregon President Scott Coltrane sent a letter to lawmakers saying he supports the legislation.


Gov. Kate Brown said she supports it as well.


Rosenblum said Oregon is one of only 10 states without privacy protections for victims seeking help from domestic or sexual assault advocates. Washington is not one of those 10 states.


The legislation, House Bill 3476, was reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

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