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Lawmakers consider stronger sexual assault policies for MN colleges

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Minnesota's colleges and universities would have a uniform policy regarding sexual assault, if a bipartisan measure moving through the legislature is passed.

The bill would also strengthen sexual assault policies to better protect victims.

The bill (which you can read here) would require all post-secondary institutions to provide sexual assault prevention and awareness training for campus security and administrators. Schools would also have to disclose how many reports of sexual assault they receive, how many were investigated, and how many resulted in discipline. An online reporting system would also be required.

One notable stipulation: Any student who reports suspected sexual harassment or sexual violence "in good faith" can not get in trouble for admitting to violating the student conduct policy concerning the use of alcohol or drugs.

This would be required for all University of Minnesota and MnSCU schools, and all private schools that receive state aid.

Support from victims, advocacy groups

Session Daily, an update produced by the Minnesota House of Representatives, covered a hearing when University of Minnesota student Courtney Blake who appeared before the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee. She spoke in favor of the measure.

“I was afraid of confirming what happened to me,” she said, noting that it took her more than a week and a half before she could muster the courage to report the incident to campus authorities.

KIMT in Mason City, Iowa, checked in with Olmsted County Victim Services in Rochester, which is in support of the bill.

“We know that victims don’t come forward because they’re afraid or ashamed, kind of worried about that victim blaming that’s going to go on," Amy Thompson with Victim Services told the station. "They might be worried that they played a contributory role in it and think maybe because they were drinking that the school or campus may look at that and hold them accountable.”

Campus sexual assaults have attracted nationwide attention in recent years, as schools come under increased scrutiny over how they handle reports.

CNN reported that the Obama administration started a campaign last year to end sexual assault on campuses. The White House cited research that claims one in five women is sexually assaulted in college, typically in her first two years in school by someone she knows.

In both the Minnesota House and Senate, the bill is in committee, and it's future is uncertain. Though the Associated Press reports the bill's author, Republican Rep. Rep. Marion O'Neill, says lawmakers from both parties support the bill, and is hopeful it gets passed in both chambers.

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