Two Democratic lawmakers from San Diego want to make a letter written by a victim of rape at Stanford University required reading as part of California public universities’ assault prevention and consent training programs for incoming students.
“We are writing to urge you to incorporate the victim pact statement form the recent Stanford University sexual assault case into your consent education curriculums,” Reps. Reps. Susan Davis and Juan Vargas wrote in a joint letter addressed to Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, and Timothy P. White, the school system’s chancellor.
The letter, written and read aloud in court by the woman who was sexually assaulted by fellow Stanford student Brock Turner, went viral. Backlash surrounding Judge Aaron Persky’s “light” sentencing for Turner — three months opposed to the recommended six years — also made its away around the Internet, partly as a result.
In their letter Davis and Vargis further suggest: “Students need to understand that these cases are not merely drunken mistakes or misunderstandings, but crimes that cam have a severe impact on their victims, and including this brave young woman’s account of her own experience will help emphasize this point.”
The victim was drunk and unconscious when Turner attacked her by a dumpster on campus. Two Swedish doctoral students happened to be passing by the sexual assault scene as it was taking place and intervened, turning them into overnight heroes.
Accordingly, the U.S. Representatives’ letter to the UC leadership also suggests that the rape victim’s “narrative also underscores the importance of bystander intervention, which these programs should encourage.”
Jennifer Rikard, who heads counseling and psychological services at San Diego State, told KPBS that she agrees with the push to make the letter required reading, noting that the letter contains “a very powerful account of some very effective bystander intervention, and that’s powerful for the community to hear.”
Representatives for both the UC and CalState university systems are reportedly considering Reps. Davis’s and Vargas’s request.
KPBS also notes that there are currently two related bills moving through the California Senate. One would reportedly require prison time for sexual assault against unconscious individuals, and the other would expand the definition of rape to include all types of penetration.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz