California Campuses Under Fire for Handling of Assaults
California universities have been under fire for their handling, or lack of, of sexual assaults on campuses. Universities are criticized for hiding incidents and, ultimately, not investigating them in a thorough manner. A template has been released outlining the way law enforcement agencies and campuses cooperate to investigate assaults.
A separate law in California made the state the first to institute a “yes means yes” policy that requires a conscious, affirmative agreement to engage in any form of sexual activity. With this measure, California has also become one of the only sates that has a requirement for colleges, law enforcement, and crisis center to handle complaints of sexual assault.
Joint interviews, when possible, with law enforcement and school officials are included in the measure. This enables victims to tell their story one time instead of multiple times to different people. Students who choose to not file a report with law enforcement should be contacted by the school or crisis center again to remind them that they have 48 hours to request the case be reopened.
Critics of measures such as this one in California say that federal statutes that allow sexual assault victims to decide whether or not to contact law enforcement is contradicted. Victim rights advocates are also quick to point out that victims should be permitted to decide whether to report the assault to law enforcement.
The model template requires that medical facilities, schools, rape crisis centers, and local authorities have a central contact at each individual agency in order to improve cooperation and communication. Each agency should receive training so that victims are not inadvertently coerced into filing or not filing a report.
It also details the fact that students who are the victims of sexual assault are entitled to a free forensic exam whether or not they wish to pursue charges. The agreement is meant to break down the barriers between campuses and law enforcement so that students who are victimized are better able to get the assistance they need.
According to U.S. Department of Education statistics, the number of reported sexual assaults doubled between 2009 and 2013. Campus and law enforcement leaders believe this number to be hire due to many assaults being unreported.
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