Love Tragedy Spurs Legislative Changes
The death of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love has spurred lawmakers to action. Love's death has created greater awareness of dating violence and even led to changes in the law. Since that fateful day in May of 2010, state legislators have made strides to protect college students. One law has passed, and another is on the table this session.
Last summer lawmakers passed a law that let people who are dating get protection orders. Before that, they had to be married. This session, another bill is on the table called Kathryn's Law that would force police on grounds to work with other area jurisdictions to solve rapes and murders. But this one has had a tougher time getting through.
In 2004, Kathryn Russell was raped as an undergrad at the University of Virginia, but her attacker went free and assaulted another student after, she says, UVA police botched the investigation.
"My investigation was so poorly done it defies logic," Russell said. "You cannot go to the local police in Charlottesville and ask for redress, you must use the campus police."
In 2011, she pushed lawmakers to pass a bill that would require police on grounds to hand over rape and murder cases to city police, but UVA police did not like it.
Michael Coleman of the UVA Police Department said, "It requires a duplication of effort by more than one agency that causes additional expenses to both agencies."
Enter Delegate Rob Bell, who changed the bill's wording to allow UVA police to work with city police instead of simply giving them the case.
Bell said, "It would require the campus police and the local police to set up mutual aid agreements where they would work out how they're going to investigate these most serious crimes. Where they can work together - which investigators to use - which technicians to use - all of those things, ahead of time so it's not going to be at 2 in the morning where they're trying to figure out sort of who does what."
The Virginia State Crime Commission has given Kathryn's Law its stamp of approval, and now Bell is hoping changes to the original bill grease the legislative wheels.
Bell stated, "So what we did is we said that let's let them work out the exact details of how they're going to work together, but we're going to say they have to figure out these MAA's - mutual aid agreements - ahead of time."
That way if another student like Kathryn needs help, she will get a team effort. Even though Yeardley Love's murder did not happen on grounds, Bell says its crimes like this he feels should inspire lawmakers to pass bills like Kathryn's Law.