Snyder pledges $500K to combat campus sexual assault

LANSING — Michigan will target $500,000 toward fighting sexual assault on college campuses, the Snyder administration announced today.

State Police Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue announced the money during the Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault summit, sponsored by Michigan First Lady Sue Snyder.

The money will be available in 2016 in the form of grants to the state’s colleges and universities. Guidelines for the grants will be announced in the coming year and be established by a committee.

“We are going to work to end sexual assault on Michigan’s campuses,” said Etue, the director of the state police.

More than 400 people — students, college administrators, faculty and lawmakers — are spending the day talking about the topic. They heard a variety of experts on issues about best practices in responding to assaults and from survivors about the problem.

Later in the day, a panel of lawmakers will discuss the state’s role in a response.

There were 159 reports of sexual assaults on Michigan’s public and private college campuses in 2013, the latest year complete figures are available. That’s a 62 percent increase from 2001.

In Michigan, no statewide standard exists for how universities should respond. Each university is free to set its own policy within federal guidelines.

Even victims and their advocates are split on how universities should handle sexual assault investigations. For some victims, police involvement has been a traumatic experience with a negative outcome. The administrative approach is more expeditious, but the punishment is often no more than a slap on the wrist.

What many sexual assault victims seem to agree upon is they want a choice, they want some control of a situation in which they feel they have lost control.

A number of other states are wrestling with the same concerns and are using legislative remedies to address the issue. In Rhode Island, a bill introduced last year to mandate colleges to report sexual assault incidents to police is being allowed to die. In its place is a new bill that would form a study commission on the topic.

Lawmakers in Virginia and New Jersey also introduced bills this session that would require college officials to promptly report all allegations of on-campus sexual assaults to local law enforcement agencies. The Virginia proposal was scaled back before winning approval. In New Jersey, in the face of opposition from colleges and women’s advocates, the bill’s sponsor introduced another measure to create a study commission.

In California, guidelines introduced in May include requiring agencies to test rape kits, better coordinate interviews so victims don’t have to recount a traumatic experience multiple times, and make sure students are informed of their right to file a report — or not to. California is one of a few states requiring its colleges to contact law enforcement in a sexual assault case.

Last fall, President Barack Obama launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assaults on campuses.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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