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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

New legislation aims to improve response, prevention measures for sexual violence on campuses

New legislation that would require colleges and universities to adopt “victim-centered” response and prevention measures for sexual violence on campuses in California was announced in a press conference presented by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) on Feb. 10.

SB 967, co-authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, (D-Santa Barbara), and State Rep. Bonnie Lowenthal, (D-Long Beach), would develop policies to encourage greater protection and services for victims, as well as education and intervention in the broader campus society. SB 967 will apply to all higher education institutions in California.

The bill would establish “affirmative consent” as the standard for deciding whether or not consent had been given by the given by the complaint in a campus investigation.

The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) is in support of this legislation and the policies that it will enforce for higher education institutions in California.

Public Affairs and Communications Associate for CALCASA Shaina Brown said the victim-centered approach will serve California students, ensuring that they receive adequate resources. She said CALCASA is “enthusiastic for [the] legislation and working with them closely to get the language informed by organizations.”

Young women from advocacy programs on college campuses surrounded legislators at the Feb. 10 press conference. Sarah Yang, co-president of the Women’s Health Initiative and a fifth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, presented a speech at the press conference following de Leon.

According to Yang, this bill encompasses the things her organization wants to do and she feels this is what the campus needs for awareness. The Women’s Health Initiative’s primary goal is to “support women in terms of gaining health resources and dealing with projects that have to do with awareness of campus.”

de Leon said that the current campus culture in higher education “stigmatizes survivors, not the perpetrators [and] sexual assaults are just too common and we need to fundamentally change that.”

Sofie Karasek, a student at UC Berkeley who said that she was sexually assaulted two years ago, was present at the press conference and emphasized the need for a “victim-centered” approach. Karasek was one of nine students in higher education to file a federal complaint last year alleging that Berkeley had mishandled student reports of sexual assault on campus.

According to the victim advocate for the UC Davis Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP), Jacquelynn Lira, it is difficult to determine how SB 967 will affect the UC Davis community specifically.

“The federal legislation called Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was passed echoes many of the provisions of SB 967 stated in VAWA, including provisions to expand requirements from a focus on sexual assault on campus to more include domestic/dating violence and stalking,” Lira said.

New requirements are currently being implemented at UC Davis, and include calculating the incidence of domestic/dating violence and stalking in the Annual Clery report, requiring that campuses make available education on these topics for new staff and students, and requiring the University’s Title IX office to investigate instances of domestic/ dating violence and stalking the same way they do to sexual assault, according to Lira.

“CVPP looks forward to the opportunity to expand on the current education and prevention programs [they] have, and continue to work one-on-one with student dealing with issues around sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking,” Lira said. “CVPP appreciates the attention that SB 967 as well as other legislation that has come before it brings to this important issue.”

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