Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, is urging UC President Janet Napolitano to take immediate action on legislation she and Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, introduced last month that would require every federally funded campus to employ an individual to serve as an independent advocate for sexual assault survivors.
In a letter written to Napolitano on Tuesday, Boxer referenced Senate Bill 2695, titled “Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act,” which would require a single point of contact to help survivors report an assault and access emergency medical care, examinations, counseling, legal assistance and information about their rights. Boxer encouraged the UC system to voluntarily implement these recommendations prior to congressional approval because students may need the advocacy outlined in the bill now that colleges are back in session.
UC Berkeley began hiring its own confidential survivor advocate this summer who will be responsible for many of the same tasks outlined in the proposed legislation.
Savannah Badalich, a UCLA senior who spearheaded several campaigns addressing awareness, education and advocacy as they relate to sexual assault, is a proponent of Boxer’s bill because it creates a “one-stop shop that students need.” Still, she was worried about the lack of funding.
“They don’t provide additional funding, and I told that to Senator Boxer,” Badalich said. “The reason why she decided to not have additional funding is the fact that it would be hard to get through Congress.”
Badalich pointed to the need for advocates at public universities and community colleges, which may not currently be budgeted for the proposed changes.
Napolitano endorsed the bill and recently established a systemwide task force to address issues of sexual violence on UC campuses. According to UC spokesperson Brooke Converse, the task force is looking at provisions in Boxer’s bill and is preparing to release its first recommendations.
UC Berkeley junior and sexual assault survivor Meghan Warner, who worked with Badalich on a consent campaign and sits on a working group that advises the task force, said she understands that progress is slow but that implementing immediate changes is important.
“The first two weeks of school are generally when sexual assaults happen most frequently,” she said.
While all UC campuses already have survivor advocate positions, Warner said they might not have one person whose full-time position is to work on such issues.
UC Berkeley senior Sofie Karasek, who has led activism against sexual assault on campus, said an advocate will make the reporting process easier for survivors.
“Oftentimes, students don’t know their rights and are unsupported throughout the process and don’t feel that they are going to have a fair experience,” Karasek said. “Advocates will help change that culture of nonreporting and will also make the reporting process a better process for survivors.”