The way MN handles sexual assault on college campuses is changing

A new law on how sexual assault is handled and reported on college campuses in MN goes into effect on Monday.
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A new law on how sexual assault is handled and reported on college campuses in MN goes into effect on Monday.

Sexual assaults on college campuses have attracted nationwide attention in recent years, as schools have come under increased scrutiny over how they handle reports and discipline those found guilty.

Although it goes into effect on August 1 like other recently passed MN laws, colleges have a little bit of more time to comply.

Prevention training

As students go back to school this fall, they will be required to complete a sexual assault prevention training by law for the first time, explains the Star Tribune. Most universities already do provide some kind of sexual assault training, but it hasn't been required until now. In addition, the training must be completed within the first 10 days of school. However, each school can handle disciplining those who skip differently.

The new law also states that campus security officers must be trained in the dynamics of sexual assault, neurobiological responses to trauma, and best practices for preventing, responding to, and investigating the crime.

Providing data

Universities have until October 1st to comply with the second component of the law which the Star Tribune points out is also an historical first.

That's the last day that they can submit their 2015 data on sexual assaults to the Office of Higher Education. According to the office's sexual assault reporting manual, colleges are also required to publish the same data on their own websites. 

It's the first time that Minnesota colleges will be required by law to publicly report their number of sexual assault investigations, in addition to their data on discipline.

Police involvement

The new law also states that colleges must enter a "a memorandum of understanding" with local law enforcement by January 1 of next year that outlines the protocols and responsibilities of sexual assault cases. A method of sharing information must also be established. The Faribault Daily News reports on how some of the memorandums are going between police departments and universities in southern Minnesota.

More details

The new law also includes various definitions of sexual assault and a list of victim rights. Furthermore, the law includes an amnesty clause that says a witness or victim will not be punished for admitting to the use of drugs or alcohol.

Finally, it requires colleges to provide an anonymous online reporting system for sexual assaults.

Organizations that help sexual assault victims say that the crime goes highly under reported, especially on college campuses.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

  • Rape is the most underreported crime nationally – with an estimated 63 percent of cases that do not go reported
  • That's in comparison to 90 percent of sexual assault cases on college campuses are not reported
  • One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college

Location of the crime

Another key point in the manual's "scope of incidents" definition helps close a gap in sexual assault reporting. Universities that receive federal funding must comply with the Clery Act, requiring them to keep track of crime statistics and issue timely warnings if the community is in danger.

However, in terms of sexual assault, the Clery Act previously required universities to only keep track of incidents that happened on campus. That could exclude any sexual assaults that happened at a school event off-campus for example, or at a house party not located on university property. Some say that has extremely contributed to the underreporting of sexual assault between college students.

Minnesota's new law covers this gap in the Clery Act by expanding the scope of the assault to include anyone who is a member of the campus community at the time of the incident, taking out location as a deterring factor.

Further reading

As the law's details were still being ironed out by policymakers last year, we reported that victims and advocacy groups were in favor of it. 

A report released earlier this year showed that sexual assault victims in Minnesota can face a number of barriers to getting a medical exam afterward.

To learn more about sexual violence and prevention in Minnesota, check out the resources at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 

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