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Sexual Assault Amnesty Bill

Rep. Joan Ballweg introduced a bill that would give victims of sexual assault immunity from underage drinking tickets.

Victims of sexual assault in Wisconsin wouldn't get in trouble for underage drinking under a bill introduced by Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, backed by the University of Wisconsin and Attorney General Brad Schimel.

The bill mirrors current practice and policy for most college campuses and law enforcement agencies, but by putting it into law, officials hope to increase sexual assault reporting.

Under the bill, a bystander who helps a victim report an assault would also be immune from any disciplinary action related to underage drinking. The law would apply at all levels, including any potential campus discipline.

Ballweg said the bill aims to provide "some peace of mind" when someone decides to report their assault.

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"I have seen time and time again how difficult it is for a victim of sexual violence to seek help from the criminal justice system," Schimel said. "If they come forward, the path before them is usually very difficult."

The bill's backers hope that by putting the policy into law, they will send a message to young people that they won't face consequences for drinking if they report a sexual assault, removing one more barrier from the decision to report.

"We need to take care of survivors of this awful crime and we need them to know they're in a safe place," said UW-Madison Police Assistant Chief Kari Sasso. "We need them to tell us and know they don’t have to worry."

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.