Those working in social justice movements are aware of the intricacies and general principles concerning issues like racial discrimination, gender discrimination, domestic violence, sexual violence, etc. Much of the work that fuels the movements around these issues focuses on awareness and prevention, always building on work, discoveries, and experience from years before. Yet there are moments in time that lend a bigger platform by which to address, confront, and grapple with these issues. For Campus Sexual Assault, the year 2014 was just that.
At the year’s inception, President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. In conjunction, they launched NotAlone.org, a site hosting resource for students, schools, and anyone looking for information on how to prevent and respond to sexual assault on college and university campuses.
The U.S. Department of Education enforces the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act. While the regulations were introduced in 2012-3, many schools were expected to abide by these new regulations just as of October 2014.
On April 3-4th, 2014, CALCASA hosted the 2014 Student Summit on Sexual Assault. For the event, CALCASA invited fifty students to Sacramento in an effort to share their experiences with campus sexual assault, develop recommendations for universities, legislators, funders, and other stakeholders to meet the needs of students more effectively.
Later that month, in an article titled “A Star Player Accused, a Flawed Rape Investigation: Errors in Inquiry on Rape Allegation Against FSU Jameis Winston” published by the New York Times, Walt Bogdanich describes the inherently flawed system at work when a victim seeks to report an assault on university campuses all the while exposing the insidious and detrimental effects of victim blaming and rape culture. Several more articles exposing similar incidents on different campuses slowly rose in numbers.
At the beginning of May, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released a list of higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and sexual harassment complaints.
Also in May, Emma Sulkowicz, one of the students who filed a federal Title IX complaint against and survivor at Columbia University, released an article through TIME discussing her experiences as a survivor at Columbia.
The California State Auditor presented an audit report concerning sexual harassment and sexual violence focused on four universities: the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; California State University, Chico; and San Diego State University. The report concludes that all four universities did not ensure that all faculty and staff are sufficiently trained in responding to and reporting student incident of sexual harassment and sexual violence. In a nutshell, none of the four universities consistently complied with state law requirements for distribution of policies to inform students and university employees of how to appropriately respond to and handle incidents of sexual violence and sexual harassment. Though this report does not reflect the state of all the schools in California, it shows just how some of the biggest, most prominent Californian institutions lack fundamental requirements in informing their students and employees of sexual violence and sexual harassment all the while not engaging in a grander effort to change this deficiency.
Senator Claire McCaskill released a report examining sexual violence on campus, putting at the forefront how sexual assault is the duty of not just campus staff and faculty but that of the state, and by extension, the nation.
Fatima Avellán from CALCASA spoke in a podcast on her experience as a student organizer against sexual violence, sharing her tips for how to effectively engage students on campus.
Also available and posted by CALCASA is the 2014 Student Summit on Sexual Assault: Report and Recommendations.
Emma Sulkowicz made an appearance again in the year as a feature in the Columbia Spectator discussing her Carry That Weight arts thesis project. In an effort to bring wide attention to the ineffective ways schools handle sexual assault reports and adjudications, Sulkowicz carries the mattress she was raped on until her school expels her rapist.
On September 9th, President Barack Obama launches the campus sexual assault awareness campaign “It’s On Us”.
Approved and signed on September 28th, California enacted SB 967, state law that thoroughly established how consent was to be defined in adjudication processes and require schools to partner with rape crisis centers towards providing a better response for student victims.
Changes to the Annual Security Reports each higher education school submitted to the Department of Education under the Campus SaVE Act took into effect. Schools are now required to record reports under domestic violence, domestic violence, and stalking while also adding categories of gender identity and national origin under hate crimes.
The Rolling Stones publishes an article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Shortly after, the Washington Post uncovered possible leads that shed doubt on the story. While this entire ordeal brought a wave of backlash against Jackie (rape survivor) and the Rolling Stone, it did not falter the community of victim advocates call to provide a better space for victims to share their stories and provide support for victims overshadowed by victim blaming and insidious effects of rape culture.
Soraya Chemaly from the Huffington Post published an op-ed on why “our ‘Rape Problem’ Can’t Be Solved By Colleges” and elaborated on the pervasive nature of rape culture.
Governor Cuomo announces adoption of Survivor Bill of Rights and uniform definition of consent to all 64 SUNY campuses.
As a new member of the sexual violence movement, 2014 felt as if much of the momentum for change came to fruition. Except this isn’t the end. 2015 holds as much potential as the year before. Stories about victims continue to rise on every college campus across the nation and action against a University or College campus’ negligence to protect their student survivors continues. Let’s hope that as these stories rise, they create reinforcements for more change in the new year.