Atlanta (CNN)The first person Grace Starling told about her rape was her professor. She didn’t intend for it to be that way, but trauma pushes people in unexpected directions.
She was a 19-year-old sophomore at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and she had just botched her first presentation of the spring 2014 semester. A high-achieving, straight-A student, she couldn’t let it go without a conversation.
When Starling went to her professor’s office she says she suddenly burst into tears.
“This weekend I was raped, and I don’t know what to do,” she told her professor.
By the end of the conversation, Starling had decided to report the incident to law enforcement to pursue criminal charges. A few days later, she took the extra step of reporting it to the school the young man attended to seek interim disciplinary measures.
Under a proposed law in Georgia, the decision would not have been left up to her.
What is HB 51?
Georgia lawmakers heard testimony from Starling and others on Wednesday in consideration of a bill that proposes to change how sexual assaults on college campuses are investigated.
The sanctions that result from administrative process are not intended to be criminal punishments, she said. They are intended to serve and protect the school community, especially the two parties involved. Law enforcement cannot suspend a student accused of sexual misconduct, she said. The district attorney cannot give a grieving student a homework extension or provide counseling.
Even if you make it clear to students that there are certain people they can turn to in times of crisis for privileged conversations, you cannot predict how they will act, she said. But it’s reasonable to believe that in the face of such obstacles, they may not act at all.
“Sexual assault has a unique impact on victims,” she said. “It cannot be compared to other crimes.”
This bill could change how colleges handle sexual assault in Georgia