Guidelines released for campus sex assaults

California Attorney General Kamala Harris Wednesday released new guidelines for the handling of campus sexual assault cases spelling out the need for universities to notify and collaborate with local law enforcement in all such cases.

The model memorandum-of-understanding, released today with University of California President Janet Napolitano, victim advocates and law enforcement officials including Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, is intended to help universities and local law enforcement coordinate their efforts in campus sexual assault investigations.

It was released in response to a state law, set to take effect July 1, requiring all college campuses to immediately contact law enforcement when a sexual assault occurs. The MOU should help schools and police provide clear, accurate and supportive information to victims and respond effectively to allegations, officials said.

Harris said in a statement:

“California has some of the best colleges and universities in the world. …¬†But for far too many hard-working students, the dream of an education from a top school is upended by school violence. We must acknowledge these students’ value to our future and give them the respect and dignity they deserve as our next leaders.”

The MOU was created by a working group that included O’Malley and agencies including San Francisco police.

O’Malley said in a statement:

“The work we have undertaken will forever impact the way California’s universities and colleges address sexual assaults on campus.”

Universities are not required to use the MOU if they already have agreements in place with local law enforcement that address the new legal requirements, according to UC officials.

The UC released new systemwide policies for the handling of sexual violence and harassment cases last year and adopted standards requiring consent to be unambiguous, voluntary, informed and revocable.

Napolitano said:

“A primary goal in our efforts at the University of California to prevent and respond to sexual violence and sexual assault has been to make sure law enforcement agencies are more fully engaged with us on this serious issue.”

Studies have found as many as one in five undergraduate students have been a victim of attempted or completed sexual assault, and an estimated 80 percent of those sexual assaults go unreported, according to Harris. Some studies suggest as many as nine out of 10 assaults on campus are perpetrated by repeat offenders, she said.