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California Has A New Guide For Campus Sexual Assault Investigators

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There is now a new guide to help law enforcement and college campuses interact with efficiency when handling reports of sexual assault. College campuses across the U.S. have been under fire by critics accusing them of not responding appropriately to allegations of sexual assault. There's even a documentary about it called The Hunting Ground. Yesterday, California Attorney General Kamela D. Harris revealed a new model memorandum of understanding—or more simply put, an agreement and how-to guide—to help law enforcement and campuses better work together when responding to reports of sexual assault, City News Service reports.

"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 sexual violence," Harris said.

Harris said this new guide will work to both help victims of sexual assault as well as "hold more perpetuators accountable." University of California President Janet Napolitano likened the guide to a "roadmap" that investigators and campus officials can follow, according to the L.A. Times.

Now, campuses must immediately tell police when an assault has been reported to campus authorities. As of July 1, every campus in California will have to report violence, hate crimes or sexual assaults to the police and have policies in place that ensure this will happen.

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The guide also talks about how to ensure that victims have both privacy and access to rape kits and other services as quickly as possible. The guide also talks about who is responsible for gathering evidence, so as to make the investigation more efficient.

Savannah Badalich, a survivor advocate who did not report her own sexual assault as a sophomore at UCLA, said that she would have reported it if she knew she would receive the kind of approach that is outlined in the guide. She said that the common reasons a victim doesn't come forward including how other victims have previously been treated and because they are often asked to repeat what happened over and over again to different people.

Harris mentioned a case from 2013 in which a 19-year-old student at Mils College in the Bay Area reported being sexually assaulted, but had to get a lawyer involved just to track down the detective who took her report, but who never followed up with her. When the woman was questioned about the attack, investigators asked about her sexual history and said she had rape and "rough sex" mixed up.

Aryle Butler, a senior at UC Berkeley and a survivor advocate, said she disagreed with some of the guide, KPCC reports. She said that automatically reporting assault to the police may dissuade some victims who do not wish to file criminal charges from reporting assault at all. She also said that "people shouldn’t be forced to do rape kits if they don’t want to."

Just recently, eight percent of students at Occidental College who responded to an online survey said they had been the victims of sexual assault. A similar survey at UC had six percent of respondents saying they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact.