UC Berkeley Sex Assault Victims File Federal Complaint

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014  |  Updated 5:17 PM PDT
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Cal Sex Assault Victims File Federal Complaint

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FILE ART - UC Berkeley' students walk through Sproul Plaza on campus

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A total of 31 former and current University of California-Berkeley students filed a federal complaint against their alma mater on Wednesday, alleging the school failed to investigate reports of rape, took months to weigh in on sexual assault cases and dismissed sex threats as silly pranks.

Six of the women held a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the newest alleged violations of the federal gender equity law Title IX that they said they filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

"What really shocked me was Berkeley has this reputation of being a progressive school; I expected them to be supportive of a woman being assaulted by another student and to hold him responsible in a just way," Cal graduate and claimant Diva Kass told the Oakland Tribune. "It was really, really disappointing and scary for me to realize they wanted to help him to not be responsible."

Kass said she was raped by the same male student twice when she was a student in 2009, she told Huffington Post. She reported it and it took four months for a university hearing to be scheduled. The student was not held responsible, the website reported, and at the panel, Kass said she was asked: "Why did you let it happen again?"

Kass told HuffPost she she was floored by Cal's "deliberate indifference."

One day before the claims were filed, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks issued an extensive "update on sexual assault prevention."

In it, Dirks said: "I want to begin this message with a clear, unequivocal statement: sexual assault has no place on a college campus or anywhere in civilized society, and I am fully committed to ensuring that we strengthen and expand our protocols in place, and roll out improvements in a deliberative way."

And Dirks highlighted several steps the university had taken since last fall:

  • Creaing ann advisory committee to review campus Title IX policies. 
  • Enlisting the help of national sex misconduct experts.
  • Allocatingd money to create a new position to help sex assault victims in navigating the reporting process and get emotional help.
  • Authorizing an additional investigator to the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.
  • Launching a new website in the spring to provide information about preventing sexual misconduct on campus.

The women filed an earlier grievance against Cal in May. In that complaint, they alleged the university discouraged students from filing formal sexual assault charges, and frequently took months to begin an investigation when students did report the incidents.

Attorney Gloria Allred helped file that claim, along with similar complaints at other schools, including Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College,  USC and UC Berkeley, alleging the colleges failed to follow federal laws regarding sex crimes, the LA Times reported.

The allegations filed in May prompted the California legislature in August to call for an audit of the school's sexual violence policies, along with those of UCLA, CSU Chico and San Diego State, according to the Oakland Tribune. The audit is still ongoing.
 

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