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Golden State Auditor Issues Report

Posted by On Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sexual assault prevention programs at California’s public universities receive scrutiny from state auditors as well as federal investigations. The State Auditor’s June 2014 Report delivered mixed results for all four schools audited this year: UC Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego State University, and Chico State University.

This post reviews the auditor’s recommendations for training requirements and victim advocates, which can help inform the efforts of colleges and universities across the country to build effective sexual assault prevention and response programs.

Content and Consequences
Currently, state law requires California State Universities to cover the following subjects in their student sexual violence education programs:

  • myths and facts about the causes of sexual violence
  • rape, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking
  • how to report incidents of sexual violence to the university and to local law enforcement
  • on- and off-campus victim and survivor resources
  • strategies to encourage peer support of victims and survivors
  • the range of university sanctions, criminal penalties, and civil consequences for those who commit sexual violence

According to the auditor, San Diego State’s educational program is “particularly lacking.” The audit found that the sexual violence education for incoming students consists of a “short verbal discussion as part of its new student orientation,” and concluded: “The content of this discussion is insufficient.” Moreover, simply posting an online brochure that contains information about how to report sexual violence is not “a substitute for student education.”

In addition, the report points out that the Campus SaVE Act requires information in prevention programs that:

  • promotes awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
  • defines consent to sexual activity
  • describes options for bystander intervention
  • lists possible sanctions and victim protective measures

But simply making a prevention program available to students is not sufficient. Instead, the auditor found that there need to be consequences, “such as registration holds,” if a student does not complete the education program. Without such a policy in place, UC Berkeley and San Diego State put students at risk because they do not enforce completion of sexual violence education by all incoming students.

For some student groups, such as athletes and members of fraternities and sororities, the auditor also recommended annual supplemental sexual violence education. Of the 80 cases of sexual harassment and sexual violence reviewed by the auditor, 20 involved fraternities or sororities.

Confidential and Resource Advocates
The State Auditor noted the White House Task Force’s “key best practice” that schools have a trained “confidential victim advocate” who helps students access resources and interim protective measures, explains the school’s disciplinary system, and assists them with that process.

Therefore, the State Auditor recommended that schools have a resource advocate who is “a central point of contact” and can help students who have been sexually harassed or assaulted access available counseling, mental health, and other on- or off-campus services for victims of sexual assault. Of the 208 students who participated in the auditor’s survey, 46 students (or 22 percent) said they weren’t aware of what resources were available.

This is also consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Question & Answer guidance document, which requires student Title IX training provide information about confidential resources. Under Title IX, confidential resources are professional counselors or pastoral counselors (or other professionals who have a duty to keep their communications confidential) who are not required to make a report, allowing them to have a private conversation with students who do not want to make a formal report or need someone to explain the reporting options to them because they aren’t sure whether or not they want to report the incident to the university or local police, or both.

Recommendations

The auditor’s report recommends that the state legislature enact laws that:

  • require universities to train all of their employees annually on responding to and reporting sexual misconduct
  • require universities to educate incoming students on sexual misconduct, and make school policies easily accessible

The auditor’s recommendations to California State Universities include:

  • annually train faculty and staff on the obligations that are relevant to their position involving how to respond to and report sexual misconduct
  • annually train athletic coaches on how to handle incidents of sexual misconduct
  • provide annual supplemental training on sexual misconduct for student athletes and members of fraternities and sororities
  • distribute written policies on sexual harassment to all university employees at the beginning of each academic year
  • post notices of nondiscrimination and policy summaries in residence halls and athletic facilities

The state auditor also found that university disciplinary procedures need to be more transparent and recommended that students be better informed about the process and provided regular updates, and that school investigations be completed in a timely manner.

These recommendations are consistent with federal law, which are aimed at informing students, training employees, making victims feel safe about coming forward, and holding perpetrators accountable. In other words, campus sexual violence will not end until it is no longer accepted as the cultural norm.

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