Students pass beneath Sather Gate and onto Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. Photo by Steve McConnell / UC B

Campus crime: sexual assault

 

On Oct. 11, a female student attending California State University, Northridge reported a sexual assault that occurred at 1:30 a.m. in the University Park Apartments. Filed as “Rape by act under false pretense” by campus police, the investigation is ongoing.

On Oct. 3, CSUN staged hip-hop artist Tyga and DJ Carnage for the annual “Big Show.” Due to the concert’s popularity, it is alleged that a female student was denied access inside after it reached maximum capacity. Let it be known that the exact circumstances for her departure are not verified since the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigation is still underway.

At around 8:45 p.m, she headed to a friend’s apartment off campus. Walking through a familiar alleyway, she was grabbed from behind and was sexually assaulted. Her perpetrator is described as a male Hispanic with a mustache.

A week before on Sept. 26, a female student went to an off-campus party where she met her assailant. After walking her to the university’s apartments, he sexually assaulted her in the dorm room.

“Sexual violence prevention has always been a priority,” an email from CSUN’s President Dianne F. Harrison said. “Recent reported sexual assaults on and off campus have significantly troubled us and left students understandably concerned. The entire CSUN community has a shared responsibility to create an environment where sexual violence is unacceptable.”

 

In less than a month, CSUN has had three reported sexual assault cases. According to a Justice Department report, about 20% of sexual assaults on college campuses are reported. The remaining 60% don’t since victims believe justice would not prevail or because it’s not important enough to disclose.

“My parents raised me to always be alert of my surroundings,” CSUN freshman Vanessa Barajas said. “If I ever feel unsafe I just start talking on the phone or have my phone in my hand ready to call 911. It’s sad but the reality is that college girls have to be able to have a survival mode.”

According to a survey from The Association of American Universities, 27% of female seniors have experienced a form of sexual assault, whether it was unsolicited touching or rape, during their college career.

In 2014, The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault created “It’s On Us.” Two key points of the program being to identify the problems on campuses and taking prevention measures.

Programs such as Culture of Respect focuses on addressing such issues. Their sexual assault prevention blueprint is “evidence-based; utilize(s) current and innovative strategies for violence prevention; and (is) available for implementation on college campuses across the country.” However, only 14 universities in the nation- including CSUN- are participating.

University of California, Berkeley is not one of the 14.

Former Berkeley students Sofie Karasek, Aryle Butler and Nicoletta Commins filed a lawsuit this past June against the university for failing to appropriately respond to their sexual abuse reports. According to their lawsuit, Berkeley did not “warn, train, or educate” the plaintiffs about “how to avoid” sexual violence.

Berkeley has followed up with a motion in September to dismiss the case since the women were not assaulted after the initial report.

In the radio show “This American Life,” aired on May 15, a voluntary workshop on consent was revealed. Taking place in New York’s Buffalo State College, this did not focus on how women should protect themselves by traveling with a group of people or by carrying whistles. Rather, it highlighted how men need to ask for consent. The room of about 50- the majority being male- were having difficulty understanding this concept.

“So consent is a verbal and enthusiastic yes, OK?” instructor Paula Madrigal said.

To which a student responded with, “That kind of messes up the mood. I’m not trying to be funny, but if she says yes, and you know, she keeps saying, yeah, I’ve got to be like, hey, you sure? Are you really sure? We’re about to do this.”

So why is sexual assault being discussed so openly now? A federal Department of Education report shows that sex crimes in college campuses have increased by 50% this past decade.

Sexual abuse continues to be an epidemic on campuses throughout the nation. With proper tools like seminars and social media, universities, victims and students can be taught not only how to avoid it but also how to put an end to it.


Updated to include that Cal State Northridge is one of the 14 universities using the program Culture of Respect.