Notre Dame responds to college sexual assault survey - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Notre Dame responds to college sexual assault survey

Notre Dame says its been conducting anonymous climate surveys of sexual assault on campus since 2012 Notre Dame says its been conducting anonymous climate surveys of sexual assault on campus since 2012

Earlier this week, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill released a national survey on how U.S. colleges investigate sexual assault. Some of the findings were fairly damning.

Among the findings:
  • More than 40 percent of schools have not  investigated case of a single sexual assault, over the past five years
  • And more than 20 percent of colleges, gave their athletic departments oversight of cases involving athletes.
So how did the University of Notre Dame compare to the national average?

"The massive survey of school demonstrates a disturbing failure by many institutions to comply with the law and with best practices in how they handle sexual violence against students," read a press release from Senator McCaskill's office.

It's a survey that looked at how schools  investigate, train, and educate faculty and students on sexual assault. Notre Dame participated in the survey and felt reassured with how their school fared.

"I am excited that it is giving us encouragement and initiative to continue our good work," said Associate Vice President of Student Services, and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Bill Stackman.

Stackman and VP of Student Affairs Erin Hoffman said the school investigates every alleged assault and provides sexual assault training to faculty and students. But Hoffman admits, there's still room for improvement.  

"Until we have no incidents of sexual violence on our campus, we don't view it as a success yet," said Hoffman.

Notre Dame's own private police force handles sexual assault investigations. But few  cases ever make their way to the St. Joseph County prosecutor's office. Hoffman and Stackman claim that's because Notre Dame respects the victim's wishes to not pursue criminal charges.  But Linda Baechle with the YWCA believes it's not the school's decision to make.

"I would prefer that they let the police determine whether or not this needs to be investigated," said Beachle.

Baechle believes private school police departments are not in the best interest of assault victims. She says most victims are so shaken after an attack, that they're not in the right frame of mind to decide whether to pursue criminal charges.  

"She's feeling so desperate and so powerless," said Beachle. "That she, I'm sure, cannot conceive of wanting to make public what has happened to her."

While Baechle, Hoffman and Stackman disagree on the competency of private police departments, everyone agrees that rape is never the victim's fault - and should always be taken seriously.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can get help by calling the YWCA 24-hour hotline at 1-866-YES-YWCA(937-9922).

You can read Senator McCaskill's complete report here.
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