Thursday, May 14, 2015

SEXUAL ASSAULTS: Colleges told not to delay reporting

DA Mike Ramos addressing sexual assault on college campuses
at Wednesday's Press Conference in Los Angeles

Schools criticized for not investigating sexual assaults thoroughly

By Christine Armario
The Associated Press



LOSANGELES»
California law enforcement and education leaders on Wednesday directed colleges to quickly notify authorities when a sexual assault is reported on campus, following criticism that incidents were being hidden by universities and not investigated thoroughly.

Attorney General Kamala Harris and University of California president Janet Napolitano released a template outlining cooperation between campuses and law enforcement agencies mandated under a state law passed last year. 

“California has some of the best colleges and universities in the world,” Harris said. “But for far too many hard-working students, the dream of an education from a top school is upended by sexual violence.” 

The move came amid ongoing scrutiny over the handling of sexual assault cases on U.S. campuses.

On those campuses, as many as one in five undergraduate students have been a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault, according to the Attorney
General’s Office, adding that the crime is “severely” under reported.

The new measure — deemed a Model Memorandum of Understanding — is one of several aimed at improving university and law enforcement responses to sexual offenses in California. It requires that a victim’s name be withheld unless they give consent. 

In a separate law, California became the first state to define when “yes means yes,” requiring an “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” to engage in sexual activity. 

California is one of just a few states requiring colleges have agreements in place with local law enforcement and crisis centers in handling a response. The measures include conducting joint interviews, where possible, with school and law enforcement officials so that victims do not need to repeatedly recount a traumatic experience. In addition, if a student chooses not to file a report with authorities, the document recommends contacting her or him again within 48 hours and making the student aware a case can be reopened on request.

The measure announced Wednesday was the result of a collaboration between Harris’ office and several others in the state, including the University of California Office of the President and the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office.


“By implementing these best practices today our victims of sexual assault will be empowered with the knowledge and resources they need to physically and
psychologically recover,” San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said. “They’ll also carry the confidence that their perpetrators will be held accountable.”



VIDEO: DA Mike Ramos addressing sexual assault on college campuses
at Wednesday's Press Conference in Los Angeles

A flurry of bills outlining campus response to sexual assaults has been introduced in state legislatures this year, though few have been passed.

A proposed federal law requiring all colleges and universities to have an agreement in place with local law enforcement has also been stymied in Congress. Critics say that approach contradicts existing federal statutes allowing sexual assault victims to decide whether law enforcement should be notified.

Victim rights advocates also contend it’s critical to let the victim decide whether to involve the police.


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