California legislators hear updates on state college campus sex assault

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At a state Legislature joint oversight hearing Thursday, a state auditor presented updates on a 2014 report concerning sexual violence on California’s university campuses.

The hearing — led by Assemblymembers Jose Medina, Mike Gipson and Shirley Weber — discussed the possibilities of increasing the availability of resources for sexual assault survivors and teaching children about consent before they enter college. Additionally, representatives from the University of California and the California State University convened to discuss sexual assault response policies on their campuses.

Of the 70 recommendations made to several UC and CSU campuses in the 2014 state audit report, 50 were fully implemented, 15 were partially implemented, and five were pending review of completion by the state. According to UC Office of the President’s Chief Compliance and Audit Officer Sheryl Vacca, the UC system is “well on (its) way” to completing the recommendations.

While the state legislators suggested recommendations for the universities at the meeting, it is ultimately up to the UC and CSU systems to implement any changes.

According to a survey from the Association of American Universities, one in four women and one in 16 men will experience attempted or completed sexual assault during his or her college career. Less than 10 percent of these incidents, however, are reported to the campuses or to law enforcement.

“The decision to report to the administration or law enforcement is (the survivor’s) choice,” said Sarah Meredith — the director of UC Davis’ Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education — at the hearing.

Meredith added that the job of the campus is to make sure survivors know their rights and options so that they can choose whether to pursue legal action, rather than to simply encourage students to report assaults.

Others at the hearing urged the campuses to make changes to their response cultures.

Chrissy Keenan — a UCLA senior and a student representative on the UC President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault — alleged that the Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, center at UCLA, which provides consultation and support to sexual assault survivors, can take as many as three weeks to process a case of sexual assault.

“There is a need for a major cultural change — not just the rape culture, but the response culture on some college campuses,” said Gipson, who called the time delay “disturbing and unacceptable.”

Gipson said sexual assault survivors often feel victimized by university administrators and individuals who are supposed to support survivors.

Keenan said that at a December round table held by the UC sexual assault task force, students recommended increased funding from the UC system for CAPS, but that it has not received any funding increases.

Vacca attributed the lack of funding to the university’s lack of funding from the state government.

“(The state Legislature) can’t condemn the CSU and UC for not having more counselling and, at the same time, not give adequate funding to UC and CSU,” Medina said.

Contact Haruka Senju at [email protected] .