Wisconsin News

Survey finds lack of sexual assault investigations on college campuses

440 colleges and campuses surveyed across the United States

Sexual Violence on Campus

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The lack of sexual violence investigations on college campuses is raising concern across the United States.

A newly released survey finds that many schools have gone years without investigating a sexual assault.

The national survey done by Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is the first of its kind and the results from the 440 colleges and universities polled are eye-opening.     

More than 40 percent of surveyed schools have not conducted a single investigation in five years, but that is not the case in La Crosse. Local colleges have been working on educational and preventative measures for years.

Before new students even set foot in a classroom at UW-La Crosse, students are exposed to the issue of sexual violence on campus at least three times.

"We've for a long time here begun with freshmen registration," said Ingrid Peterson, a violence prevention specialist at UW-La Crosse. "One of the things that we know is that the first six weeks of college are an extremely high-risk time for young women for sexual assault," said Peterson.

The first time is when students register for classes.

"We do a session that is mandatory for them," said Peterson.

As soon as students are done registering, they are asked to take an online survey during the summer.

"It addresses alcohol, sexual assault, some aspects of what we call bystander intervention," said Peterson.

Students are exposed for the third time during move-in weekend on campus.

"They will have a chance in their smaller groups to follow up and discuss all the stuff they have laid in front of them," said Peterson.

However, this is not the norm on all college campuses. A national report found 31 percent of the surveyed schools don't provide sexual assault training for students and 21 percent of schools don't provide any training for faculty and staff.

At Western Technical College, all new faculty and staff go through an orientation session.

"We cover what their responsibility is if a student comes to them and tells them they were sexually assaulted or if they hear that a student was sexually assaulted," said Shelly McNeely, the Dean of Students at Western Technical College.

It's not the easiest thing to talk about, but staff members say it's important to know how to handle it the right way.

"I think making sure staff on campus is trained on how to do the investigation and how to do investigations in a compassionate way," said McNeely.

At Western, the dean of students said they investigate between one and three sexual assaults every year. At UW-La Crosse, the violence prevention specialist said they investigate between 20 and 25. 

The Missouri Senator is planning to introduce bipartisan legislation later this summer to deal with the lack of investigations taking place at colleges across the country.

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