In past months, reforms have been made as to how the Oakland Police Department [OPD] treats victims of sexual assault who report their attacks. Mills College senior and PLEA major Kendall Anderson has been advocating for changes by speaking about her own experience reporting her assault to the OPD.
According to the Oakland Tribune, the changes made to the OPD’s treatment of sexual assault victims include: no longer holding their interviews in interrogation rooms, more sensitivity training for officers dealing with cases of sexual assault and a form that must be given to any victim who comes in which states that they are legally allowed to have a victim advocate, someone that will provide emotional support and help find resources, present in their interview.
In Jan. 2015 Anderson wrote a piece for Salon.com called, “I wish I’d never reported my rape,” detailing what happened when she went to the OPD in 2013. Her essay talked about being taken into a windowless interrogation room that had handcuffs on the chair where she was treated as a suspect. Anderson’s piece got the attention of the the OPD.
“Any victim of any crime should not be [treated] in that way, especially victims of violent crimes,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s essay has not only got the attention the OPD, but also California State Attorney General Kamala Harris. Citing Anderson’s piece in a press conference in May, Harris called for support of students who have been assaulted. She stated that law enforcement agencies and campuses must offer help to these students and hold the attackers accountable.
Harris also introduced a Model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that law enforcement and campuses will use to improve their responses to cases of campus assaults. Actions in the MOU include: clarifying duties of campus officials and police after an assault is reported, giving the victims any information for services to help them as soon as possible and requiring regular training for the campus and police agencies.
“For far too many hardworking students, the dream of an education from a top school is upended by sexual violence,” Harris said. “This model agreement will help…to provide sexual assault victims with the help they need.”
Anderson’s story also impacted activist groups such as Flowering Hope and Pave-Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment. Groups such as these offered her collaboration opportunities and speaking roles.
Anderson plans to continue her activism work and plans to submit a second piece to Salon. She feels that even though changes are beginning to be made, there is still work to be done.
“I think believing victims would be a good first step because I know in my experience, I faced a culture of doubt, and from what I’ve seen it’s a very common occurrence for victims to not be believed by police or colleges,” Anderson said.