- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday pressed the leaders of all California colleges to establish an independent advocate on each campus for victims of sexual assault.

A task force reporting to the University of California Board of Regents recommended Wednesday that each campus establish a confidential advocacy office. Boxer said she wants the California State University and California Community College systems to do the same.

Boxer and Rep. Susan Davis, both Democrats, have authored legislation making such an office a requirement for colleges and universities that receive federal funding. The advocate’s office would ensure that victims receive information about counseling, forensic exams and reporting crimes to law enforcement. The office also would undertake information campaigns for students.

Boxer told reporters it would be faster for campuses to take the step on their own than to wait for Congress to act. Her office also released a letter that she sent Thursday to the various public and private university systems in California.

“The school year is now underway, and while students should be focusing on their studies, the devastating reality is that far too many of them face the threat of sexual assault during their time at college,” Boxer wrote. “They are counting on us to not only educate them, but also to protect them.”

Three of the 23 campuses within the California State University system have already established a victim advocate’s office, said Mike Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs for the CSU office of the chancellor. The system also is hiring someone to oversee system-wide initiatives to deal with sexual assault issues. That new hire would be the person who recommends whether more campuses should hire a victim’s advocate.

“If it’s determined that is the route to go, then obviously we’ll be all for it,” he said of Boxer’s request.

Earlier this year, a White House task force on sexual assault recommended actions that colleges and universities should take, including ensuring the availability of confidential victims’ advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses.

The department also took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of 55 schools facing federal investigation under Title IX for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations.

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