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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:23 am | Fair 48º


Assembly Committee Hosts Roundtable to Evaluate UCSB’s Sexual Assault Prevention, Response

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, incoming chairwoman of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, organized a roundtable discussion Wednesday on strengthening education and prevention programs, improving the handling of sexual assault complaints, and expanding resources for survivors at UC Santa Barbara.

“Sexual violence is a devastating problem that impacts the lives of women, men, and children,” Williams said. “These crimes often go unreported on college campuses; in large part due to the victim's belief that authorities will not take action. We must ensure that our campuses are offering support and resources, investigating crimes, and prosecuting perpetrators in order to get the true magnitude of the problem.”

An estimated one in five women will experience a sexual assault during their college career. In the vast majority of these assaults, the perpetrator and the victim know each other. Research suggests that less than 5 percent of these incidents will be reported to law enforcement.

On June 30, the Assembly Higher Education Committee held a joint oversight hearing to review compliance with federal sexual harassment laws at California's public universities; there was overwhelming consensus that campuses can and should do more to protect students from sexual assault. As chairman of the committee, Williams committed at that hearing to ongoing monitoring of campus actions.

This is the second roundtable discussion being conducted at a UC campus. The first roundtable to review campus progress took place at UC Berkeley in September. UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley efforts are evident, but student voices asking for justice have proved to be louder.

On Wednesday, for the first time, UCSB and Santa Barbara City College provided statistics regarding disciplinary outcomes associated with sexual assault cases. At UCSB, of 42 cases filed with the Office of Judicial Affairs between 2010 and 2014, only three cases resulted in formal discipline (suspension of one to three quarters). At SBCC, in the 2013-14 academic year, seven Title IX complaints were filed, four resulted in suspension of five years.

“Forty-three cases in the last four years have been brought up to Juridical Affairs, and none of them have ended in a dismissal, that is simply embarrassing,” Williams said to the UCSB administrators. “I want to ask the campus to focus on these numbers, they tell a story: How can we convince victims to come forward when there is virtually no chance that the perpetrator will be held accountable? I hope the campus will dwell on this math here, and work hard to change these numbers.”

Students and victims had a clear perspective on why cases were not being reported: “The trend throughout the Title IX complaint filed with the federal government against UCSB was that students felt they were discouraged from moving forward,” said Sofie Karasak, a UC Berkeley student and co-founder of End Rape on Campus (an organization that assisted students in filing the UCSB complaint). "This concern was reinforced by a UCSB student-survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. At every step in the process I felt discouraged; investigators and law enforcement lacked sensitivity.”

Lt. Brad McVay of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said this was the first time they heard of these concerns. He guaranteed that the sheriff’s office would take the issue seriously.

“Our goal is to encourage anyone who has experienced sexual assault to come forward and we will address it," McVay said.

Angela Andrade, associate dean for student wellness at UCSB, expressed optimism that new California legislation mandating an affirmative consent standard in evaluating whether sexual assault occurred (SB 967) will lead to better outcomes.

“The campus is making some progress," Williams said, "but after hearing from the students and victim advocates, a lot more needs to be done to change the pervasive rape culture on our college campuses.”

Jeannette Sanchez is the district director for Assemblyman Das Williams.


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