CA Officials Institute New Sexual Assault Guidelines

California Attorney General Kamala Harris and University of California President Janet Napolitano announced a new framework to improve how California college campuses handle sexual assault cases. On Wednesday, May 13, Harris released a Model Memorandum of Understanding on Campus Sexual Assault. 

In a press release, Harris pointed out that the Model MOU will bring law enforcement and university officials together to assist victims of sexual assault. 

“The model agreements will help break down silos between campuses and law enforcement agencies to provide sexual assault victims with the help they need and hold more perpetrators accountable,” Harris stated.  

Napolitano added that cooperation between campuses and law enforcement will improve investigations into sexual assault cases. 

“Working closely with Attorney General Kamala Harris and law enforcement agencies will help us build trust and ensure appropriate outcomes for criminal acts of sexual violence and assault,” Napolitano said. 

The Model MOU consists of a how-to guide and a template MOU for law enforcement agencies and institutions of higher education to facilitate better coordination in dealing with sexual assault cases. In addition, it highlights student victims’ rights to a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (rape kit), to choose whether or not to participate with local law enforcement in pursuit of a criminal investigation and to participate anonymously therein.  

University of California Student Association President Jefferson Kuoch-Seng told the UCSD Guardian in an email that the MOU is not enforced for California college campuses that already have similar policies and procedures in place.

“It’s available for guidance but not required if a campus already has agreements in place with their local law enforcement agencies that address collaboration and information sharing related to responding to sexual assault and other Part-I violent crimes,” Kuoch-Seng said. 

The Model MOU is intended to help campuses comply with Assembly Bill 1433. The law requires institutions of higher education to implement written policies and procedures ensuring any report of sexual assault that campus authorities receive are immediately forwarded to local law enforcement. California campuses must do so by July 1, 2015, which is stipulated in the California Education Code.

According to a press release by the Office of the Attorney General, up to 20 percent of undergraduate students are victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault. Additionally, 80 percent of campus sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement.

In January 2015, Harris released an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies and higher education administrators summarizing AB 1433 as well as Senate Bill 967, commonly referred to as the “Yes Means Yes” law. Gov. Brown signed the law into force on Sept. 28, 2014. The law put in place an affirmative consent standard in determining whether “consent was given by both parties to sexual activity.”

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