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How IU Is Handling Sexual Assaults Amid White House Report

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Photo: Adam Lederer (Flickr)

Indiana University students walk across campus in Bloomington. Nationwide, nearly one in five women are sexually assaulted during their time in college.

The White House is recommending colleges take additional steps to prevent sexual assault on their campuses with the release of a report today from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

As NPR reports, the report provides colleges basic guidelines for dealing with sexual assault cases:

The report is titled Not Alone, which is also the name of a new website the administration created as a resource for schools and the victims of sexual assault. Its work reflects contributions from several federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Sexual assault victims should be able to speak in confidentiality to a trained advocate who would not be required “to report all the details of an incident to school officials,” as some colleges have mandated in recent years.
  • “Questions about the survivor’s sexual history with anyone other than the alleged perpetrator should not be permitted.”
  • An accuser and the accused “should not be allowed to personally cross-examine each other.”
  • Calling the intervention of bystanders one of the “most promising prevention strategies,” the report calls for encouraging men and women to act in such cases.
  • The new website also includes a national “school-by-school enforcement map” that marks resolved cases that involved the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

IU already largely complies with those guidelines, but working on a college campus does have some inherent difficulties.

“There’s always more work you can do and because we have a fluid population we have to continually educate and train and make aware new students,”says IU Health Center social worker Debbie Melloan.

Justin Garcia, a researcher at the Kinsey Institute at IU, has been working to better identify sexual assault problems on  campus.

Indiana University police reported 27 forcible sex offenses in 2012—the year with the most recent data, but Garcia says that number is low because most sexual assault survivors don’t report their crimes, and he says it’s important to know not only how many people are sexually assaulted, but how and why.

“By people coming forward and courageously sharing their stories with us, then we’re able to say these are some of the commonalities, these are some of the patterns and this is how we go after those patterns shut them down,” Garcia says.

Indiana University Trustees reaffirmed their commitment to addressing sexual assault on its campus at a meeting earlier this month. Here’s the statement they released:

To address the unacceptable incidence of sexual assault and similar crimes on U.S. college campuses, Indiana University is committed—

  • To take vigorous steps to prevent sexual assault and similar crimes through education and training, including education on the effects of alcohol on the issue of consent;
  • To help build in our community a robust culture that rejects such conduct and associated behaviors;
  • To encourage bystanders to intervene to avoid a sexual assault from occurring or to report such crimes to university officials or local authorities, and to fully account for such reports under federal law;
  • To support victims with full information about available resources, to assist victims in accessing resources, and at all times to exhibit personal care and concern to victims;
  • To investigate thoroughly and objectively all reports of sexual assault and other crimes, and to cooperate fully with local law enforcement and prosecutors;
  • To conduct university proceedings arising from sexual assault and other crimes with the highest degree of professionalism, assuring fairness and dignity to all participants.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the IU police reported 50 forced sexual offenses cases last year. They, in fact, reported 27 on-campus sexual offenses, 23 of which were in on-campus residences.

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