By Vivian Nunez
March 28, 2016
Caption : OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     Credit : Trisweb/English Wikipedia.

The University of California, Berkeley announced on March 24 that it would be implementing changes to the way it approaches campus sexual assaults, effective immediately.

Among the changes that the University will be making is an increase in resources for the Office for Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment (OPHD). This will be in an effort to decrease the amount of time it takes for sexual assault complaints to be investigated.

“Reducing investigation timelines will help bring closure to these cases more swiftly for all involved, including complainants and respondents,” reads an email sent to the UC Berkeley community. “It will also enable us to do a better job of collecting and analyzing data on reporting and response, which will allow the campus to continuously improve our administrative systems, and inform our prevention efforts.”

Under Title IX, universities are required to investigate all reports of sexual assault within 60 days. A verdict must be issued, at which point either the complainant or respondent has multiple avenues they can explore, including filing a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The University of California, Berkeley will also be increasing resources to on-campus programs such as Confidential CARE Advocates, University Health Services Social Services, and the Gender Equity Resource Center. With the additional resources, Berkeley hopes that survivors will continue to feel empowered and protected while on campus.

Only about 5 percent of those who are sexually assaulted on campuses report their assaults; initiatives like these at UC-Berkeley could potentially boost the number of survivors who feel comfortable and safe enough to report their assaults.

Overall, UC-Berkeley’s new strategies mirror those that larger, grassroots initiatives promote through their campaigns. For instance, UC-Berkeley will be emphasizing the need for bystander intervention and education for all members on campus, all in an effort to decrease the likelihood of campus sexual assaults. This push is similar to that of It’s On Us, a White House initiative, meant to increase bystander intervention.

“Each member of our campus community must have clarity about their own responsibility to prevent and report harassment and violence, as well as about how to effectively intervene and provide support where possible,” explains university officials in an email to students.

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