Better late than never: New college policy redefining consent is long overdue

Josh Bradshaw, Staff member

UC Berkeley was recently accused with botching 31 current and previous sexual assault charges and the same victims are filing federal complaints to the U.S. Department of Education. How does this affect DVC you might ask? Well, the new proposed Senate Bill 967 will help prevent a mishandling of sexual assault cases in California universities as well as community college districts.

According to an article published in LA Times on February 26, 2014, the students who filed the sexual assault charges were initially discouraged from reporting the assaults. The victims were not informed of their rights and were part of, “a biased judicial process that favored the assailants’ rights over those of their victims.” One of the victims, Sofie Karasek, points out that the way these cases were handled is, “dangerous for the students who attend college here, and is representative of a larger problem: the federal government is not adequately enforcing its own laws.”

Diva Kass, another of the 31 victims, was raped at a fraternity party and filed a complaint with Berkeley administrators, but they found that “her assailant not responsible for the rape.” She further “felt betrayed” and was heartbroken to find the university she loved, “was willing to find in his favor so they wouldn’t have to report a rape on campus.”

This is why Senate Bill 967 is so important to college life.  It will require all community college districts, and California universities to adopt a policy to better handle these cases. According to the California State Legislative website, campuses must incorporate the notion of affirmative consent, “which is a freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in particular sexual activity or behavior, expressed wither by words or clear, unambiguous actions.”

Furthermore, if the consent arose from the victim is, “incapacitated due drugs, alcohol or medication,” then it is not affirmative consent. The phrase “she was drunk” will no longer be a valid defense for the accused. Previous relations with the victim are also not affirmative consent.

An article published on March 3, 2014 on The News Record website indicates that a national investigation is underway for the way universities handle sexual assault complaints. Three out of the nine national colleges mentioned were in California. These colleges were UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and Occidental College. Berkeley failed to report the complaints and failed to keep the victims informed. A student at Occidental College, Danielle Dirks, claims that, “Occidental has invited rapists back to campus and told survivors not to worry because ‘he’s reformed now.’” UC Santa Barbara had two brutal cases of rape within two days, one including gang-rape. All three of the colleges have handled the situation poorly, and the victims are left to handle things themselves.

This is long overdue. Why has a bill similar to this not been introduced? Does California have to wait for something to become an issue in order for them to take action? Yes, this bill is a step in the right direction, but why did the Senate have to wait until UC Berkeley was accused of botching 31 sexual assault cases? Instead of using policies as solution to a problem, they should be used as a preventive measure, ensuring that the safety of the Californian public is secure.