While sexual assault on California colleges and universities has been on the rise, Sacramento State has seen a significant drop in reported sexual assault cases on campus since 2012.
The mandated annual Clery Report shows one reported forcible sexual assault case on campus in 2013, with no forcible incidents reported off-campus or on nearby public properties; a drastic improvement from the three reported on-campus and four off-campus sexual assault cases reported in 2012.
While it cannot be certain if the decrease has been a result of efforts to educate the campus population about sexual violence or the mandatory online tutorial for all incoming students about sexual assault, the numbers show that Sac State has been successful in their attempts to minimize and eventually stop sexual violence on campus.
“The sexual violence and education resources our Student Health Center and Human Resources provide are comprehensive and notable,” said Kim Nava, Director of News Services and Public Affairs.
In addition to the current resources mandated by Title IX, which require colleges and universities to “take necessary steps to prevent sexual assault on their campuses, and to respond promptly and effectively when an assault is reported”, colleges will now be required to adopt SB 967.
The bill, introduced by Senator Kevin de Leon, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 30. The law requires that all California colleges and universities provide students with victim centered counseling, while mandating a victim advocate be present on every campus that receives funding from the state.
“Our sisters, our daughters, our nieces – every woman deserves the right to pursue the dream of higher education without being threatened by the nightmare of violence and sexual abuse,” said de Leon. “The governor’s signature on this legislation is an important step to prevent that kind of nightmare on our college campuses.”
The law also redefines consent. Instead of educational institutions using “no means no” as the sole definition of consent, campuses are now required to promote affirmative consent, with the phrase “yes means yes”. This requires that both parties say “yes” to sexual activities before, during and after.
While this definition may be new to some colleges and universities, Sac State has been unofficially using the ‘yes means yes’ approach for more than ten years, according to Jessica Heskin, who works as an advocate and health educator for Student Health and Counseling Services.
“When I got here in 2000, we didn’t have any policies on sexual assault, and nothing on domestic violence,” said Heskin. “So we came up with the first sexual misconduct policy in the CSU system in 2005. We’ve always taught enthusiastic yes.”
How Title IX and SB 967 will work together, Heskin is not sure. The CSU Chancellor’s Office has until September 2015 to implement a plan on how the 23 CSU campuses will adopt the new mandates into their existing campus policies.
“We have to wait from the chancellors office on how we actually can implement it,” said Heskin on SB 967. “I think the key thing is collaboration, collaborating with our partners off and on campus is what really has made us so successful.”
Heskin says that although she cannot give all the credit for Sac State’s decrease in reported sexual assault to campus resources and educational tools, she does know the laws along with the with media attention surrounding sexual violence on college campuses, will continue to benefit students across the country.
“This is the first time in the history of our country that a president has made a public declaration that sexual assault, dating violence and stalking is a public health risk for women,” said Heskin. “It is not incumbent on the victims themselves to find help but that we as a country need to be the ones to find the help and institute prevention strategies. We have never had that before. Ever.”