Should colleges be required to report accusations of rape immediately, no matter what victims say?

With national attention focused on the issue of campus sexual assault — from the President, Congress and a national survey of hundreds of thousands of college students — Virginia lawmakers are considering forcing state college officials to report suspected cases to police immediately.

It’s not an easy issue: Victims’ advocates say people may need more time before reporting such an assault or may never want to relive an assault by going through the judicial system; others argue that allegations of a serious crime shouldn’t ever be ignored.

It’s especially fraught in Virginia, in the wake of a now-discredited Rolling Stone magazine story alleging a gang rape on the campus of the University of Virginia.

The Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy writes Monday that a Virginia Senate panel advanced a bill that would require public colleges to report allegations of sexual assault on campus to police within 24 hours of being notified; any faculty member, administrator or full-time staff member would face a misdemeanor charge if he or she failed to do so.

A woman who graduated from the University of Virginia last year after an on-campus sexual assault said such a requirement could keep students from going to the university for help. But the parents of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who disappeared in 2009, have expressed support for some form of mandatory reporting.

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