Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, UC President Janet Napolitano Take Steps to Address Campus Sexual Assault
LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced steps to address the pervasive issue of campus sexual assault on California’s college campuses. Joined by University of California President Janet Napolitano, law enforcement leaders and victim advocates, Attorney General Harris released a Model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), comprised of a How-To Guide and Template MOU for law enforcement agencies and institutions of higher learning to improve their coordination, collaboration and transparency in response to cases of campus sexual assault.
“California has some of the best colleges and universities in the world,” said Attorney General Harris. “But for far too many hard-working students, the dream of an education from a top school is upended by sexual violence. We must acknowledge these students’ value to our future and give them the respect and dignity they deserve as our next leaders. This model agreement 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.”
Studies suggest that as many as one in five undergraduate students have been a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault. In addition, this crime is severely underreported, with 80% of campus sexual assaults going unreported to law enforcement. Lack of reporting also impacts public safety, as studies suggest that repeat perpetrators account for nine out of 10 assaults on campus.
“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,” said University of California President Janet Napolitano. “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.”
California is entering a new era of accountability for campus sexual assault. For the first time under California law, campuses across the state are required to immediately alert law enforcement when a sexual assault occurs. By July 1, 2015, California campuses must have policies in place to ensure that reports of violent crime, hate crime, or sexual assault made to campus authorities are immediately disclosed to law enforcement. The Model MOU will help campuses and law enforcement agencies comply with their new obligations, increase reporting, and improve their response to campus sexual assault to seek justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.
Specifically, the Model MOU lays out key action items that include:
- Clarifying the duties of campus authorities and law enforcement agencies following an assault, including who will act as first responder, who will collect and preserve evidence, and how to share necessary information while preserving victim privacy
- Ensuring that campuses, law enforcement, and community-based organizations work together to connect victims to services – including rape kits – as soon as possible
- Committing to regular training for both the campus and law enforcement communities
By adopting the best practices in this model agreement, school officials and law enforcement agencies can provide clear, accurate, and supportive information to students who have been assaulted, including a clear understanding of how to report an incident to authorities and where and how to seek medical assistance.
The Model MOU is the product of a collaborative effort between the office of Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, University of California Office of the President, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office, San Francisco Police Department and Oxnard Police Department.
“I commend Attorney General Harris for taking a proactive step to make sure that our college campuses are a safe and welcoming community for our students,” said San Bernardino District Attorney Mike Ramos. “Together we share the responsibility of promoting best practices and collaborating with our partners in law enforcement and the UC system.”
“I am very pleased to have a well-thought-out guide suggesting how we can better assist survivors of sexual assaults on our college campuses while also complying with new legal requirements,” said UCLA Police Chief James D. Herren. “This toolkit gives us steps we can take to connect important resources as we pursue justice and work to eliminate this national problem."
“The work we have undertaken will forever impact the way California’s universities and colleges address sexual assaults on campus,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “Sexual assault survivors will be assured that their voices are heard, that the crime will be investigated, and that they will receive the medical attention vital to their physical and psychological well-being. Also of great importance, campus personnel and law enforcement will now have clear guidance as to how to proceed when a victim reports a sexual assault.”
Attorney General Harris has a decades-long commitment to reducing sexual violence, holding perpetrators accountable and seeking justice for sexual assault victims. As a line prosecutor in Alameda County and then as the District Attorney of San Francisco, the Attorney General has long focused on violence against women and children. In her first year in office, the Attorney General eliminated a longstanding backlog of untested rape kits in state-run labs – which included 1,300 DNA cases. In April 2014, the California Attorney General’s Rapid DNA Service Team received the United States Department of Justice Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services.
In January 2015, Attorney General Harris issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies, higher education administrators and campus security personnel, providing enforcement guidance on new and amended sexual assault and campus safety laws. The bulletin summarized SB 967 (Senate pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles) and AB 1433 (Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Glendale), gave enforcement guidance in the context of existing state and federal statutes, and encouraged increased collaboration between law enforcement and campus authorities. At the time she released the bulletin, Attorney General Harris promised to release further guidance in the coming months, including this model agreement.