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Sexual assault reporting on the rise at CSULB

Officials cite increased education efforts as the potential cause of the increase in sexual assault reports on campus.

Map+of+colleges+under+investigation+for+sexual+assault+cases.
Map of colleges under investigation for sexual assault cases.

Map of colleges under investigation for sexual assault cases.

Tribune News Service 2015

Tribune News Service 2015

Map of colleges under investigation for sexual assault cases.

Valerie Osier, Assistant News Editor

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At a campus that saw only two cases of sexual violence in all of 2014, police and California State University, Long Beach officials have seen at least eight cases of sexual assault reported this semester.

Although the numbers look dramatically increased, officials do not think the number of sexual assaults has gone up, but that students are reporting the assaults more often. Larisa Hamada, Title IX director at California State University, Long Beach, said that she still thinks there is severe under-reporting of sexual assaults, despite the increase this semester.

“I would love to say, ‘Long Beach State is a bubble and we don’t ever have any sexual assaults and with the numbers in the past, there was just one or zero’ really is true,” Hamada said. “But what I think was happening was: before, people were experiencing things and they didn’t know where to go, they didn’t know if it was safe to report, they didn’t know what their rights were, they didn’t know what was going to happen to them. And they didn’t know it was sexual assault … Other times people are confused about what consent is … There’s a lot of cultural confusion about this topic in general.”

Sexual assault is a more broad, generic term that covers: rape, sexual battery, sodomy, oral copulation and unlawful sex with a minor, Detective Chris Brown, sexual assault investigator for the University Police, said.

In fall 2014, the Title IX office began ramping up their efforts with online sexual misconduct awareness training, which approximately 26,500 students completed, Hamada said. This year the training was required for all new students, including freshmen and transfers, which added approximately 10,000 students whom Hamada said are now “fully aware and fully trained” about sexual assault.

In addition, CSULB is conducting full training of staff and faculty, including student employees, with three online trainings.

“Also with all of our employees receiving a ton of training as well, we’re finding that our systems are working,” Hamada said. “So [Resident Assistants] are now reporting forward what a suitemate may have told them about a friend, or a faculty member said, ‘There’s something that happened in my class where a student said one of her friends was assaulted and I know I have to report forward even if it’s a third-hand statement.’”

Students have received three “Timely Warning” emails in their inboxes regarding a report of alleged sexual battery in the Library in August, an alleged rape in a residential hall in September and two alleged sexual assaults that occurred at an open party hosted by Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in October.

Police issue Timely Warnings when they feel as if there is an ongoing threat to students, Lt. Richard Goodwin of University Police said.

In addition to the sexual assaults mentioned in the emails, on Oct. 20, a female student reported being raped at the Hillside College Residential Hall, in which the alleged assailant was arrested and booked at the Long Beach Police Department jail. Police received a report of “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” in Los Cerritos Hall on Oct. 4, according to the University Police activity log.

On Oct. 27, a student reported an incident of sexual battery when a male subject allegedly rubbed himself on the student’s body. Police are also currently investigating a case of sexual battery in which a 17-year-old student reported being assaulted by an 18-year-old student. When consent was withdrawn, the sexual activity stopped. The victim does not desire prosecution, Goodwin said, but police are investigating because the incident involves a minor.

“I’ve been here for 21 years, and in that 21 years, I do not recall there being this many reported sexual assaults, sexual batteries or the like,” Goodwin said. “But I do believe it has to do with the education of our community here.”

The University Police and the Title IX office do separate investigations with each sexual assault that is reported to them. Some cases may require a criminal investigation as well as a university investigation, and others may require a university investigation only, Brown said.

Investigations also depend on what the victim chooses to do. If the victim does not want to report to the police, they can choose only to report to the Title IX office, or vice versa. Hamada said that the only caveat to that is if the victim is a minor, then the Title IX office must report it to the police.

“The way the Penal Code is written, there are very finite elements for the crime,” Brown said. “For example, rape is sexual intercourse against a person’s will by the use of force, fear, violence, intimidation, threats, things like that. So when you run across an individual that had an uncomfortable sexual experience where there was no affirmative consent, it might not fall under the category of rape because there was no threats or force or violence or fear, there was just no consent. While that would fall under the avenue of sexual misconduct, and the University could do their own internal investigation, it doesn’t meet the elements of the crime.”

Goodwin said that despite an increase in reports of sexual assaults, University Police are handling the influx on a case-to-case basis “professionally and to the highest standards of the department” with a team of investigators including one investigator specifically for sexual assaults.

In the Title IX office, Hamada said they are well equipped to handle cases that come to them with two investigators on staff, but they will have to grow in the future as the number of reports continues to grow. There are also two sexual assault advocates on campus: one in the Women’s Resource Center and one in the Health Center.

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