UC task force on sexual assault sees success, more challenges before next regents’ meeting

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A UC task force on sexual violence issued a plan in July to implement its final recommendations, which will go the UC Board of Regents for discussion later this month.

In September 2014, the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault issued seven recommendations to combat sexual violence in the UC system, with an eighth added in January 2015. Each recommendation had a time-based goal, the last four of which elapsed in July. In July, the task force issued its implementation plan for these four recommendations.

“Everybody concerned, including survivors and other members of the task force, is working to make sure we do a thorough job of addressing UC policies on preventing and responding to sexual violence and sexual assault,” said Kate Moser, media specialist for the UC Office of the President, in an email.

The July recommendations include plans for systemwide investigation, adjudication and data-collection standards; equitable resource allocation; and consistent training and education.

Earlier recommendations, including systems to provide confidential care at all UC campuses along with a standardized team-based approach to education and enforcement, were implemented in January.

In January, UC Berkeley, along with the rest of the university, implemented the recommendations by hiring a confidential care advocate. UC Berkeley added two more staff members to the confidential care team in August.

Sheena Paul, UC Berkeley junior and interim director of the ASUC commission on sexual assault, said in an email that while confidential care for survivors of sexual assault now exists throughout the UC system, it does not reflect the size of campuses such as UC Berkeley. Care advocates are often over capacity because of this discrepancy, she said in the email.

In the plan, Sheryl Vacca, the task force lead, also acknowledged the challenges of accomplishing a wide-reaching mandate. She added that changing the culture at both administrative and social levels is difficult and time-intensive. Many of the people involved in the process were not initially working collaboratively, she said in the plan.

Paul said that in the future, the task force should examine how students at UC Berkeley are bringing attention to the intersectionality between race, ethnicity, gender and sexual violence. She added that understanding how sexual violence is connected to identity is an important and essential part of supporting survivors.

The plan concluded by remarking that the plan’s implementation is not the final step, and that efforts to prevent and respond to sexual assault must be consistently evaluated and modified.

“The task force has made some important changes,” said Meghan Warner, a UC Berkeley senior and a student representative on the task force, in an email. “But there’s always more to do.”

Contact Austin Weinstein at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @aweinstein5.