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Congresswomen lend support to Cal sexual assault victims

Students who filed suit claiming UC Berkeley isn't doing enough to combat sexual violence now have some high profile support.
April 15, 2014 7:51:56 PM PDT
A group of UC Berkeley students who filed a federal lawsuit claiming the university is not doing enough to combat sexual violence received some high profile support on Tuesday. They also met personally with the chancellor.

The students who spoke Tuesday went from sexual assault victims to survivors and now activists. Their efforts are gaining the attention of the university's chancellor and also two of the Bay Area's top lawmakers.

"In April of last year, I was sexually assaulted in the campus residence halls," said one woman at the Tuesday news conference.

One by one, women who are students UC Berkeley stood up and told their stories. Some have done it before, but this time they had two powerful Bay Area congresswomen at their side -- Barbara Lee and Jackie Speier.

"You know, it's particularly chilling that there is this level of indifference at universities," said Rep. Speier, D-Calif. "And I believe that this progressive institution, that has been a leader across the continent, must step forward and be a model for the rest of the country."

These women are among 31 current and former students who have filed a federal lawsuit against UC Berkeley, claiming the university has violated their civil rights in its failure to respond adequately to their complaints of sexual assault. Some incidents were reported. Many others were not.

"And actually, not reporting was a very good decision because I knew I was just going to be disrespected by the university like they've done to countless other survivors," UC Berkeley student Meghan Warner said.

On Monday night, these women met with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who has promised to do more to prevent sexual assault and punish offenders.

"We are not indifferent in this issue we take it extremely seriously," UC Berkeley spokesperson Claire Holmes said. "Have put some resources in place to support not only our students but to educate incoming students and anybody in our community about what is acceptable behavior and what isn't."

Congresswoman Speier plans to take it a step further, by introducing a bill this spring in Congress.


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