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Calif. Gov. Signs Bill to Protect Confidentiality in College Sexual Assault Cases

The bill will protect communications between crisis counselors and sexual assault victims on California college campuses.

Calif. Gov. Signs Bill to Protect Confidentiality in College Sexual Assault Cases

The provisions of the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

A bill seeking to protect the confidentiality of communications between a sexual assault victim and a crisis counselor on California college campuses has been signed into law.

The bill, which was introduced by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes in January, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday, reports CBS Local.

Cervantes proposed AB 1896 after learning of a lack of specificity in state law concerning the protected nature of communications with alleged sexual assault victims.

“With increased attention to the alarming issue of sexual assault occurring at college campuses, there is a strong need for sexual assault counselors to provide a safe environment and appropriate assistance for survivors,” Cervantes said. “AB 1896 will do so by providing survivors of sexual assault with legal assurances of confidentiality. We must do all that we can to provide survivors with the support they both need and deserve.”

According to Cervantes, because section 1035 of the Evidence Code does not specifically recognize any privileged communication between an assault victim and a crisis counselor at a private or public college or university, it was uncertain whether conversations could be considered confidential or open to scrutiny by law enforcement, according to The Patch.

While California state law has always held that rape counselors in designated crisis centers, hospitals and clinics have the option to communicate in confidence with individuals seeking support or resources following a sexual assault, the definition currently does not include counselors on higher education campuses.

Cervantes also highlighted the importance of the bill by citing statistics that show 11.2 percent of college students across the country report being raped or sexually violated each year.

The bill was sponsored by the Cal State Student Association and supported by The California State University and Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. It also received bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate.

The provisions of the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

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Amy Rock is Campus Safety's senior editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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