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Davis, California

Sunday, May 19, 2024

UC students fight to reduce barriers to accessing care for sexual assault survivors

AB 1138 would provide free and safe transportation to and from sexual assault forensic exams at California colleges and universities


By KAYA DO-KHANH — campus@theaggie.org


Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) and undergraduate students from across the University of California wrote AB 1138, which would require UCs and California State Universities (CSUs) to provide free and safe transportation in a way that protects student anonymity to and from sexual assault forensic exams. The organization that created the bill is Generation Up (GENup), a student-led social justice organization and student-activist coalition. According to fourth-year UCLA student and GENup’s Collegiate Chief of Staff Allyson Chan, GENup came up with the idea for the bill because of the limited access to forensic exams that it saw on its members’ own college campuses. 

“You’re just surviving one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person, and you’re being met with logistical and administrative issues,” Julianne Lempert, a UCLA student and policy chair for Ignite National, a young women’s political leadership organization, told the Los Angeles Times. “It discourages survivors from starting their healing journey.” 

Chan said that due to the distance most UC or CSU campuses are from sexual assault forensic examination kit locations, the services are often difficult or impossible to get to via public transportation. In addition, not all students have access to safe personal vehicles, which affects the safety of survivors and restricts reporting options.

“To reduce barriers to receiving care, AB 1138 would mandate that all students have equal access to forensic services, thus increasing the reporting options of sexual assaults and fostering an environment of support for survivors,” Chan said via email.

On April 17, GENup representatives partnered with Ignite National at the Capitol to lobby for AB 1138. There were a number of student speakers from both organizations, and Assemblymember Weber’s legislative staffer Trent Garrett spoke alongside them. 

“The press conference was truly powerful to see students mobilized in solidarity for survivors of sexual assault,” Chan said via email. 

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Weber on Feb. 15 and passed through the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee with a unanimous 12-0 vote. The bill is currently in the Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. GENup is working to get the bill out of suspense and heard in the committee for a vote by gathering additional support. There is an AB 1138 letter of support template for organizational support, and individuals or organizations can join the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Transportation for Youth Coalition with this link: http://tinyurl.com/AB1138SAFETYCoalition

Fourth-year economics major and chairperson of the ASUCD Student Health and Wellness Committee Hibah Shafi said that the committee, which promotes and advocates for student health and wellness, including mental, physical and sexual health, is working on several projects that pertain to the topic of the bill. 

One of the projects that it is working on is an attempt to combat electronic stalking through air tagging on campus. 

“It has happened to a lot of people on campus, including me,” Shafi said. “I heard that a lot of people, including my own friends, had air tags slipped into their bags at the library. Even under cars — that’s where mine was, right on the bumper of my car. It’s so scary to have your sense of safety and security be stripped from you, and unfortunately, the police are not really equipped to deal with this new form of electronic stalking.”

Shafi said the committee is working on speaking with the city council, and they have obtained stalking data from UC police departments. The committee wants to work more with city officials to create a safer space for students, and it hopes to create a city ordinance. 

It is also working on launching a project this fall quarter that communicates and educates students attending organizational events about the three pillars of consent. The committee specifically wants to work with fraternities, and the end goal is that at any fraternity event, students are told the three pillars of consent before entrance. 

On April 26, the committee helped the Sexual Assault Awareness Advocacy Committee with their Denim Day painting event and had a bystander intervention training that was presented by the UCD Center for Advocacy, Resources and Education. 

Written by: Kaya Do-Khanh — campus@theaggie.org