UC system updates sexual assault policies

The University of California updated its sexual assault policies to clearly define consent, require that assault prevention programs be available to all employees and students, and entitle survivors to know the possible consequences that can be dealt to their offenders. This was prompted by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act signed by President Barack Obama last year and the recent outcries at universities like Berkeley and Dartmouth for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases.

“An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted at college – and that’s totally unacceptable.  So I’ve created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  We’re going to help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses,” stated Obama in his weekly address of Jan. 25.

According to the new UC policies, consent is informed, voluntary, revocable, and cannot be given if the person is incapacitated.

“Consent is an affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity,” the policy states. “It must be given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation.”

Furthermore, the survivors are able to know beforehand what their attackers face as opposed to before when they could only know what the punishment was after it was dealt. When a university administration receives a written report of the assault, it sends back another report to the survivor stating his/her options to report to either the local or campus police and to change living and/or transportation situations and stating the survivor’s rights in regards to restraining and protection orders.

Universities may also support victims by allowing for them to repeat coursework without penalty, providing counseling, or changing house assignments.

The new policies require that administrators and employees report more types of violence, which includes stalking, domestic violence, gender expression/sexual orientation discrimination, and any violation of the federal law Title IX, which states that students cannot be discriminated against based on gender.

A Title IX officer oversees the reports and determines whether to undergo a formal investigation based on if the accused has had prior complaints against him/her and the severity of the allegation. If the perpetrator is deemed guilty, he/she is expelled.

The same goes for CVHS. First-offenses result in a five-day suspension, a police report filed, and a recommendation for expulsion.

“We refer to law enforcement anytime a crime like that occurs on campus,” said Assistant Principal Matt Steinecke. “There are two avenues: school and law enforcement. We work hand in hand but pursue expulsion as a school.”

While the penal code might stop for law enforcement if they do not have enough evidence, the school can continue the investigation.

“If we can prove this person attempted assault, that can be grounds for expulsion,” said Steinecke, though the perpetrator might not get arrested.

“The offender should be arrested and tried legally, depending on the severity of it, because it’s not fair for the victim to have suffered and not the criminal,” said junior Mika Lucas.

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