The UC announced the expansion of its systemwide policy against sexual and domestic violence, stalking and harassment, in order to meet the March 7 deadline to comply with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The federal law, renewed by President Barack Obama, allocates $660 million over the next five years for programs for transitional housing counseling, support hotlines for rape or domestic abuse victims and legal assistance.
The 1994 law, which expired in 2011, was reauthorized by 199 Democrats and 87 Republicans in a vote of 286 to 138 on Feb. 28. VAWA was previously stalled by Republicans in the House of Representatives, who unsuccessfully attempted to pass an alternative piece of legislation which stripped certain protections granted to Native Americans and gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic violence — offered in the renewed VAWA law.
“Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse,” Obama said in a news release. “Today’s vote will go even further by continuing to reduce domestic violence, improving how we treat victims of rape, and extending protections to Native American women and members of the L.G.B.T. community.”
According to federal statistics released in 2012, 37.4 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 18 to 24; 1:5 women and 1:71 men reported experiencing rape in their lifetime.
UC Media Specialist Brooke Converse said UC policy changes will include expanded training and education, increased reporting requirements, broader protections for victims and sanctions, in addition to protective measures that universities may implement after a final disciplinary review. Converse adds that further policy changes may be mandated by state legislation under the guidance of the federal government.
“We have no tolerance for sexual violence or harassment of any kind,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a press release. “The university must, and will, hold itself to the highest standards, and I expect all of our locations to do everything possible to make everyone aware of these standards.”
Among the new changes at a university level, communications supervisor of the UCR Police Department (UCRPD) Judy Lane said that under the VAWA, sexual harassment is a new category that must be publicly reported in future UCR Clery reports starting from 2013. Lane adds that UCRPD handled one rape, one attempted rape and three sex offense cases last year.
“Clery requires us to get incidents that are reported to other people on campus (such as Title IX) and local police departments,” Lane said. “We will not be collecting that information for a couple of months as we are still getting guidance on the new requirements under VAWA and they are not officially due until Oct. 1. So when the 2013 Annual Security Report (Clery) comes out those numbers could potentially be a little higher.”
Student affairs officer at UCR’s Women Resource Center Romanie Arterberry said she felt that training on sexual assault prevention should be mandatory for incoming freshmen. “Education is the key,” Arterberry said. “I feel training should also be mandatory for all clubs and organizations before they are allowed to register or re-register their organizations.”
Arterberry says the Title IX office is the official office for reporting cases of sexual harassment at UC Riverside. Other resources available for sexual assault survivors are the Women’s Resource Center, UCR’s Survivors Support Group, Counseling Center, the Well, the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center and the Campus Health Center.