How colleges handle the most unreported crime

Cassy Tweed | Graphic Courtesy

College students across the nation face a troubling reality that they, or someone they know, will be a victim of a sexual assault crime.

According to RAINN (rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States, 13% of all college students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.

Statistics show that students have an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters. Among undergraduate e students, 26.4% of females, 23.1% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault.

And yet, with statistics like these, sexual assault is considered one of the most unreported crimes. RAINN states that three out of four sexual violence crimes are not reported to the police.

According to North Dakota State University’s Student Cases Annual Report for the 2019-2020 school year, 60 students reported crimes of discrimination, harassment, retaliation or sexual misconduct, but only 2 of those cases received a formal investigation. Out of the 60 cases, 30 reported sexual misconduct.

Although 30 cases were reported for sexual misconduct specifically, there wasn’t any further information about the number of cases that classified as sexual assault crimes.

NDSU’s Student Code of Conduct defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Sexual assault includes non-consensual sexual contact and non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

The University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota also share a universal language that focuses on consent in regard to sexual assault. Sexual contact or attempted contact without consent is at the foundation of each of these colleges’ sexual assault policies.

Institutions across the country must adhere to and take actions that follow policies as well as state and federal law, according to the Title IX office at NDSU. There must be due process for a sexual assault that is reported to the administration.

Sanctions are dependent on the outcome of a case in a conduct hearing and a hearing officer from Student Affairs makes a final decision on whether a person is responsible or not responsible for the alleged behavior. Sanctions can range from low-level consequences to expulsion depending on the details of the case.

“Our policies are continuously reviewed by Title IX Coordinators, legal counsel and others to ensure we maintain compliance,” Canan Bilen-Green the Vice Provost for Faculty and Equity said, “Additionally, NDSU is a member of several national organizations that are the leading experts in the field, which allow opportunities for training and collaboration.”

The NDSU Dean of Students Office and Student Affairs reviews the Code of Student Conduct annually. They are currently in the process with three students on the review committee.

“Outside of the formal process, students can ask questions and provide feedback with the Dean of Students Offices” Casey Peterson the Dean of Students said, “Questions and feedback are compiled for consideration in the next formal review.”

Students can reach out to the Equity and Title IX page on NDSU’s website to ask questions or file a complaint.

“It is important to know that input from students is always welcome in how matters relating to sexual assault are handled by the university,” Bilen-Green said, “We make every effort to ensure that everyone who has been affected by an assault has support and is aware of the possible resources available both on campus and in the larger community.”

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