SACRAMENTO (AP) — A California State University official said Thursday that he’s hearing there are more reports of sexual violence on campuses — but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more attacks.
Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Framroze Virjee didn’t mention specific figures in his report Thursday to the university system’s Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach, but he said he believes increased awareness has led to an uptick in reporting to campus authorities this year over last year.
“We think that is a good thing,” Virjee told trustees.
That means avenues have been created for sharing information and men and women feel empowered to step forward and report incidents, Virjee said. Victim advocates say sexual violence is underreported because students either have felt they would not be supported if they reported an incident or they did not know where to go to do so, among other reasons.
“We should see an explosion of reporting over the next couple of years,” Virjee said.
The 23-campus university has been revamping its policies in response to federal pressure. Washington has accused universities nationwide of failing to properly address the problem.
California State University recently hired an officer to oversee the system’s compliance with Title IX, the federal law that regulates how educational institutions handle reports of sexual violence. Violators can lose federal funding.
The university also has expanded its training of students and staff on the issue.
Individual campuses are also adopting initiatives such as apps and websites to spark dialogue around the problem and make a cultural shift.
California recently became the first state to enact legislation defining what constitutes consent in sexual assault investigations. The law seeks to end a victim-blaming culture by requiring campuses to use an “affirmative consent” standard to determine whether accusers made an “unambiguous, conscious” decision to have sex. Silence, lack of resistance or intoxication is not consent under the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1.
The university system had already adopted affirmative consent policies that put it in compliance with the new state law, Virjee said.