State prosecutors to hold forums on combating college campus sex assaults

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New Jersey is putting a focus on combating sexual assaults on college campuses.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has directed prosecutors from all 21 of the state's counties to hold forums on college campuses this fall.

Grewal had updated state standards last fall for providing services to sexual assault victims. He also issued a directive that established new reporting measures to more accurately track sexual assault cases.

Grewal announced the new initiative Thursday at Rutgers University. The attorney general’s office is working with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault – a group that is trying to change the culture among young people.

"We never work to address what people should be doing to keep themselves from being victimized. But in fact, our approach is how do we reduce the likelihood that someone is going to perpetrate?” says executive director Patricia Teffenhart. “And so, all of the conversations we have are around prevention or around how do we support communities that make people feel as if the act of perpetrating violence would be so publicly shameful that they would never consider it?”

Officials say that sexual assaults are on the rise in the state. A report from the New Jersey Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault found that roughly 20 percent of undergraduate women will experience sexual violence on campuses throughout the country.

Grewal is one of 19 state attorneys general to oppose a proposed federal overhaul of campus sexual assault rules. Some believe that will discourage victims from coming forward and prevent schools from taking action against students facing credible allegations.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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