Senate bill targets campus-based sexual assault cases

A newly-proposed state senate bill intends to require colleges and universities to strengthen the language on their policies for sexual assault on campuses.

Among the inclusions in Senate Bill (SB)-967, co-authored by Sen. Kevin de León and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, are an affirmative consent standard, a policy to protect alleged victims’ confidentiality and protocol for campus law enforcement when dealing with sexual assault.

The bill also requires schools to have stricter policies with the disciplinary process. For instance, students accused of sexual assault would not be able to use intoxication or drug use to defend their actions.

The presented measure reads, “The governing board of each community college district, the Trustees of the California State University, the Regents of the University of California, and the governing board of independent postsecondary institutions … shall adopt detailed and victim-centered sexual assault policies and protocols that comport with the best practices and current professional standards.”

Pierce College Student Health Center Director Beth Benne says that although she hasn’t seen more than 10 reports of sexual assault cases in the 20 years she’s worked on campus, it doesn’t mean that it’s not an important aspect of school safety.

“I think the numbers are a bit higher than that. It’s happening, but maybe not on campus,” she said. “What I see [more of] is old wounds from assaults that have happened in the past.”

To promote sexual assault prevention and overall awareness, Pierce hosts an annual clothesline project that invites the college community to share personal stories or words of advice. The project is organized in line with Denim Day, a national rape-prevention campaign.

“It’s so absurd why Denim Day has to exist,” Benne said.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Education.