New bill could change how sexual assault crimes are reported

One in five female students is assaulted during their time in college, according to the National Institute of Justice. Colleges throughout the United States are accused of underreporting sexual assault crimes and as a result, State Assemblyman Mike Gatto is planning to push for tougher laws against sexual assault on college campuses.

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto plans on promoting greater transparency in sexual assault investigations by proposing legislation AB 1433 which would require colleges to report violent crimes to law enforcement for investigation unless the victim decides otherwise. Despite the passage of the Clery Act in 1990, which requires colleges and universities to release crime statistics annually, the internal judicial system of the university is under attack as it fails to tackle the root of the problem and sufficiently address the needs of the victims.

USC and most notably Occidental College, which was the campus that originally sparked Gatto’s interest, were reported to discourage victims from reporting assaults.Occidental College also failed to report sexual assaults according to the Los Angeles Times.

In October 2013, a CSUN student reported to police that she was sexually assaulted in her on-campus apartment. A month later the Los Angeles City Attorney filed charges against the student for filing a false police report.

False incidents make universities more reluctant to comply with federal laws, often allowing the unpunished perpetrator to strike again. A White House studyfound that 7 percent of college men admitted to attempting rape, and 63 percent of those men admitted to multiple offenses, averaging six rapes each.

In his press release Gatto says that this law would allow colleges to, “…focus on teaching, and leave the investigation of crimes to the professionals -local police and sheriffs.”

CSUN Chief of Police Anne Glavin disagrees and believes Gatto’s legislation implies that university police departments don’t have the means to report and investigate which is far from the truth,

“It’s a very flawed legislation,” Glavin said. “Essentially what the assemblyman is trying to do is take crime reporting information and require the police department or campus public safety to push this information out to city police.”

Glavin said the problem lies in the university’s compliance with regulations that require them to handle certain crimes within their own department. Victims often choose to report sex crimes to the university rather than the police department due to the sensitive nature of these crimes.

“If CSUN police had information on a crime happening they’re supposed to push that over to the LAPD,” Glavin explained. “And particularly in the case of sexual assault which is part of what the assemblyman was concerned about their notion was that they can better investigate those things.”

She says that Gatto’s proposal would apply well to universities with security organizations rather than those with police departments. This is where institutions begin to fear negative publicity and put themselves over the well-being of the students.

“I became police officer in 1975 it was the same problem then, only one out of five women victims ever report to the police,” Galvin said. “It’s the nature of the crime, it’s so intensely private, it’s so intensely embarrassing, it’s so intensely hurtful and in those days you didn’t have all the support systems and you’d walk into a hospital they want to see blood gushing out, wounds and if you didn’t exhibit that and you had what we now call rape trauma, those things weren’t recognized in those days.”

Glavin acknowledges that much of this is now corrected in our system, but remains to become less stigmatized.

Although Glavin and Assemblyman Gatto disagree on the solution to the problem, it is clear that these crimes are finally being brought to the attention of people nationwide instead of being shrugged off by universities. On January 22, 2014 President Barack Obama addressed the nation examining the increase of sexual assaults on college campus describing it as “an affront on our basic decency and humanity.”

According to the report issued by the White House, “Nearly 22 million American women and 1.6 million men have been raped in their lifetimes” which often results in rape trauma exhibited by depression, anxiety and substance abuse to name just a few symptoms. In response, he assigned a task force 90 days to develop a plan to create a solution to the problem. Obama stressed the importance of staying educated and ensuring that students are aware of the dangers on campus.

CSUN offers a wide range of resources that allows individuals to find crime information ranging from theDaily Crime Log, to requesting a hard copy of the Clery report, both of which contain three years of crime statistics. Bulletins are posted, and emails and texts are immediately sent out notifying students of a potential emergency on campus. The Matador Patrol also provides free personal safety escorts for students. Programs such asDATE project are offered by the University Counseling Services (UCS) which not only assists students who have been victims but brings awareness to the issue.

“I feel safe because we have Matador Patrol and I see posted warning signs by the restrooms. I feel a lot more comfortable and I feel protected on campus,” said Richere Barbeau, 20, a sophomore art major. “They shouldn’t cover this information for the sake of students safety. They should be able to announce it but not make it a big deal so people don’t panic.”

Glavin continued to point out the severity of the problem.

“It’s a very difficult problem, it’s not a new problem,” Glavin said. “Education always has to be there it’s always a big piece of that, understanding how not to be victimized, understanding prevention wise. It’s a very complicated picture now. “

To report a crime contact the CSUN Police Department at (818) 677-2111 and to request a safety escort call Matador Patrol at (818) 5042/5048 available Monday through Thursday from dusk to 11 p.m.