By Mary O’KEEFE
Assemblymember Mike Gatto has introduced legislation that he hopes will ensure that crimes, specifically rape, committed on college campuses are reported and investigated.
“The bill has been in the works for a year,” Gatto said.
AB 1433 amends the state Education Code to require any report of a Part 1 violent crime, including willful homicide, forcible rape, and robbery or aggravated assault or hate crime, to be reported to the authority if the victim wishes it to be reported.
The last part of the bill was added after Gatto spoke with rape victims who voiced their concern about requiring the victim to report.
The bill came after it was discovered that several California colleges were accused of covering-up on-campus sexual assaults. The reasoning, apparently, was a concern over what reporting this type of crime would do to the school’s reputation.
“It is just horrifying to [think they] sweep these crimes under the rug,” Gatto said.
Two Southern California colleges are currently the subject of a federal investigation for their handling of on-campus sexual assaults and other violent crimes. In addition to the federal investigation, five U.S. campuses, including three in California, are the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging violations in Title IX and Clery Act. The Clery Act is the federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose [in an annual report] information about crimes that happen on or near campuses, according to a statement from Gatto’s office.
Gatto said that his office found in some cases crimes were not reported to the proper authorities.
“I think most victims assume when they tell campus security or if you tell the administration they would [follow up] with law enforcement,” Gatto said.
However, there were times when the campus security or administration decided to handle it in-house.
The bill will not just help victims of a sexual assault crime but of others as well.
“Several California colleges have also been criticized for failing to notice signs of dangerous or abusive criminal activity. At one state university, the administration admittedly failed to recognize the brutal, racially based abuse of a 17-year-old African American student by his roommates. The abuse was discovered only after the young man was allegedly held captive in his room with a bicycle lock chained around his neck,” according to Gatto’s statement.
The bill is intended to not only help the victim but, by reporting the crime, there is a greater chance the suspect will be arrested and stopped.
“We don’t want to leave that [suspect] in the population to victimize someone else,” Gatto said.
The victim reporting gives her, or him, the power to decide whether to report to law enforcement, getting the victim out of the shadows and in a place where she, or he, can get help.
The bill also brings the subject to light and hopefully will get students and teachers on campus, both men and women, talking about rape.
“I think a lot of things need to change [the] on campus culture and educate the people on these crimes,” he said.
According to campusrape.org and the U.S. Dept. of Justice, 20 to 25% of women will be raped during their college career, 65% of rapes go unreported and 90% of women know the person who raped them.
County of Los Angeles Public Health Rape Hotline: (800) 585-6231 or visit www.securityoncampus.org or http://clerycenter.org.