Last Thursday, President Barack Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act in addition to reforming how colleges will handle sexual assaults.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which was included in the VAWA, aims to establish transparency, accountability, education and collaboration on college campuses and universities.
San Diego State sociology sophomore and vice president of Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association Kaia Los Huertos said she believes the SaVE Act recognizes the prevalence of sexual assaults and the need for this kind of policy.
“It provides a comprehensive look at sexual violence on campuses, and while it may not be the end-all-be-all to sexual violence, it provides the kind of programming that could begin the end,” Los Huertos said.
Universities will be required to include incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in annual campus crime statistic reports.
Since 2007, 59 rape incidents were reported at San Diego State. The SDSU Police Department’s annual reports don’t specify the types of “assaults.”
SaVE Act requires colleges to inform students of their rights and options. Victims will also be given the right to change academic, living, transportation or working situations to avoid a hostile environment.
Schools must also provide prevention and awareness programs for all incoming students and new employees, along with bystander intervention strategies.
“Education and awareness is a huge aspect of being able to fight any kind of problem,” Los Huertos said. “And this kind of action is an incredible help to victims’ lives and can provide them with a change that may save them from trauma.”
To enforce SaVE, the U.S. department of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services will collaborate to determine the best practices for preventing and responding to sexual violence.
SDSU currently offers Rape Aggressive Defense System courses, which teaches women self-defense techniques and martial arts tactics. The class is free for SDSU students, although a $14.99 “R.A.D. Program Manual” is required.
“Many times, victims are shushed instead of encouraged to report and get help; it is extremely important that rape and violence is spoken about, so that it may be ceased,” Los Huertos added. “The SaVE Act has the ability to change these aspects of SDSU life and I hope it serves to improve our community further.”
Andrea O’Donnell, after whom WOA was named, is among the many women who have lost their lives to sexual violence. She was trained in self-defense, a top student leader in women studies and part of the predecessor organization to WOA.
“It does not matter who you are or what you’ve done, but sexual violence can happen to you,” Los Huertos said.
The law will take effect during the 2014-15 school year.