When allegations of sexual assault are reported on college and university campuses, campus police are usually notified of the report. And when a student is accused of a sex crime, even the allegations can affect the student's reputation and future at the school.
Officials with Marquette University in Wisconsin have announced plans to change how reports of sexual assault are handled after admitting that the previous protocol is flawed. In the past, after students reported an incident of sexual assault to Marquette's public safety department, the student would then be given a choice of whether to report the incident to the police.
This process is to change because the policy was found to be in violation of Wisconsin law, which requires private security firms to notify police of any crimes. Now all sexual assaults are to be reported to the Sensitive Crimes Unit of the Milwaukee Police Department. Students may still choose whether to speak to police officers about the crime.
Marquette's President made a public statement in which he admitted that the university improperly handled two sexual assault reports involving student athletes in 2010. While the crimes were investigated by the university and the students responsible were disciplined, they were not immediately reported to police.
When the incidents were finally reported to Milwaukee police, officials claimed that there was too little evidence to prosecute the cases. The university's handling of the case was criticized heavily, with one expert claiming that a faster response time might have yielded additional evidence.
Perhaps this change in processes will allow accused students a more thorough investigation. If the accusations are false, a police investigation may help clear the student's name.
Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel online, "Marquette revises sex assault policies," Sharif Durhams and Gitte Laasby, 22 June 2011