UC achieves sexual assault policy goals

Courtesy of the History Graduate Student Association
Courtesy of the History Graduate Student Association

The UC Board of Regents discussed the implementation of a series of services and resources such as the establishment of an advocacy office for sexual assault victims on each UC campus during their most recent meeting from Jan. 21-22.

The advocacy office, entitled “CARE: Advocate Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Misconduct,” will include one full-time advocate position and provide services such as psychological counseling and emergency housing for survivors of sexual assault.

Other initiatives include the establishment of a systemwide website that each UC can individually tailor and the creation of a two-team response model that will review current cases of sexual misconduct and implement intervention and prevention policies within the community.

Led by UC President Janet Napolitano’s sexual assault task force, these initiatives were successfully implemented within the last four months, according to a press release. The task force aimed to establish consistent services that focused on the prevention and response of sexual assault throughout the UC system.

Task force members consist of Sheryl Vacca of the Office of the President, Regents Karen Clancy and Bonnie Reiss, as well as Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin, UC staff members and over 50 students.

“This is truly important to ensure that survivors have a safe place to go to voice their concerns in a safe, privileged, environment,” said UC Berkeley undergraduate and task force member Rishi Ahuja about the advocacy office. He furthered that the office “will not serve to push survivors” into reporting their assaults, but rather “elucidate the options available.”

The task force’s accomplishments were received favorably by both students and regents, but some suggestions were made for its improvement.

While the task force has ensured that each campus now has one full-time advocate position in each “Care” office, Ahuja voiced his desire for more, since one advocate for a population of over 30,000 undergraduates “simply won’t cut it,” he said, referring to his own UC Berkeley campus. He added that since the presence of advocates increases the number of reports made, there may be demand for more.

The task force is also responsible for addressing the issue of respondents, or those who are accused of sexual assault, as part of their goals for July 2015. “It is only fair that all services are offered objectively and fairly and equally, to not only the complainant, but also to the person who has been accused,” said Vacca. An “If you have been accused” section for the systemwide website will be recommended as a July milestone for the president to consider.

Speaker Emeritus of the California Assembly and Regent John A. Perez addressed the issue of punishments for perpetrators of sexual violence. He is not satisfied with saying that “discipline can include up to expulsion, as opposed to being able to directly … show that it isn’t a theoretical consequence, but an actual consequence,” he said.

Other initiatives will include the development of a comprehensive education and training program available on each campus.

Saifuddin lauded the plan’s integration of student responses. “What makes this task force different is that there has been student feedback solicited at every single piece of the equation,” she said. Perez also expressed his satisfaction with the task force’s progress thus far. “We’re finally creating a place where survivors can come forward and hopefully that creates an environment where we have fewer and fewer incidences over time,” he said.

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