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California Campus Staff Untrained to Address Sex Attacks

UC Berkeley Campus
University of California at Berkeley students walk by Sather Tower on the campus in Berkeley, California. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California university employees need better training in preventing and responding to sexual assaults, and campus victims should know more about where to turn, a state auditor’s report said.

State campuses at Berkeley, Los Angeles, Chico and San Diego failed to ensure that residence hall advisers and athletic coaching staff are taught to respond to students who have been sexually assaulted, according to the report released today. About 22 percent of 208 students surveyed at the four universities were unaware of resources for assault victims, the report said.

At least 64 U.S. colleges are under investigation by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, including the University of California at Berkeley, for violations of Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in education. Inadequate response to campus sexual assault is a violation of the law.

Without proper educational programs, “universities risk having their employees mishandle student reports of the incidents,” the report said. “Further, when they are not sufficiently trained, employees may not know how to interact appropriately with students in these situations and may do something that would discourage students from engaging in the reporting process.”

The California State Auditor examined policies and procedures at Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles, California State University at Chico, and San Diego State University. The report recommended that the state legislature require universities to train employees annually on polices and procedures related to sexual assault. It also recommended that colleges educate students about their risks and resources as soon as possible after they arrive on campus and prominently post information on services for victims.

April Guidelines

The conclusions should be applied to all members of the university systems, the report said.

A White House task force released new guidelines in April on how campuses should respond to sexual assault and called for colleges to conduct anonymous surveys to gauge the scope of the problem internally. Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, concluded a series of three roundtables yesterday aimed at developing legislation that will make it easier for sexual assaults to be prosecuted by law enforcement officials.

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