RICHMOND, Va. – Recent high school graduate Grace Chicklin says she knows a handful of peers who are victims of sexual violence and she thinks a bill signed Monday by the governor will help educate young Virginians.
"It's really a prevalent thing,” she said. “Most everyone I know has been impacted it in some way or the other.”
High-profile rape cases on college campuses, like the conviction of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, have grabbed headlines. But advocates say the problem is bigger and more hidden.
"While horrific and shocking, that is not unique,” said Annie Clark, with theorganization “End Rape on Campus.” “It is a microcosm of what is happening."
On Monday, Virginia took what was described as a first step toward preventing assaults on college campuses by focusing on younger students.
House Bill 659 was signed by the governor, and will require schools across Virginia to teach sexual violence prevention.
Gil Harrington and Trina Murphy were at the ceremony.
They both lost loved ones to predators.
Murphy and Harrington think educating the next generation of young Virginians before college will save lives.
“It could have made a difference if how she looked at the world, and made her pay a little closer attention to her surroundings and who was around her,” Murphy said of her niece Alexis, who was murdered by Randy Taylor. Her body has never been found.
I think the message is bad things happen in nice places to nice girls,” Harrington said, who started the advocacy group “Help Save the Next Girl,” after her daughter was murdered by Jesse Matthew Jr., who was also convicted of the murder of another Virginia college student – Hannah Graham.
The sexual violence programs will be included in high school family life courses. No date has been set, but the Commonwealth is just one of a few states to pass such legislation.