Politicians call for reform of sexual assault guidelines

Brenden Williams

Because of the lack of due process rights, politicians and professors are calling for reform of the handling of sexual assault cases on college campuses, but some say the guidelines may not be the problem.

Some politicians like Marco Rubio have made public their belief that due process rights are not being upheld, some going as far as to say that the campuses are siding with the victim before the investigation is completed or even started in one reported case.

Rubio issued a statement about his belief that false accusations can “destroy lives.”

“Certainly we should make additional efforts to protect due process on campus,” Rubio said.

Others like Bernie Sanders had strong statements on sexual assault being handled by campuses as well, as he called for reform on Jan. 11.

“Rape is a terrible crime, and the way it’s handled on campuses is insulting,” Sanders said.

At Washburn University in 2015, only one confirmed case of sexual assault was reported as of October, as well as one case of falsely reported rape.

However, in 2014, according to Washburn University Police Department’s records, up to five sexual assault or rape cases were reported. There were two reported cases in 2013 and one noted case in 2012.

Dean Forster, chief of police for the Washburn Police Department, explained that the process is long and time consuming when a sexual assault is reported to make sure they “get it right.”

“Any law enforcement agency, including the Washburn Police Department, will take sexual assault very seriously” Forster said. “That’s part of the reason I guess is why it becomes a long process. I guess it goes back to no stone goes unturned during the investigations. On a campus investigation there would be the Washburn Police, [Pam] Foster, the hospital, the district attorney would be involved in it, whatever they want and need for the prosecution, the person handling the evidence, then the interview process starts, witnesses we can find, witnesses we find later, the suspect if the person is know, friends of the people to see what we can track down. It’s not an investigation that will be done in a day; it’s not an investigation that will be done in a week.”

Sharon Sullivan, chair of the women and gender studies department and faculty adviser for STAND, says the problem is not false accusations, but rather people not reporting sexual assault when it happens.

“The percentage is the same as every other crime,” Sullivan said “False reports [are] really around 2 percent, 2 – 5 percent. It’s hard sometimes to evaluate these things because so much has to remain confidential, so even if a student tells me they were assaulted, they may not tell me anything else because it’s confidential and private, as well it should be.”

Sullivan referenced a case at Washburn last year where a student was falsely accused of sexual assault in which the university was careful about how they handled the case and eventually discovered the false accusation.

“I know that the people at Washburn are very careful because they want to get it right,” Sullivan said. “It’s very uncommon (to see that situation happen), but it’s much more common that people never report their assaults, males or females.”

Sullivan does not see a problem with the new policies that some are calling for reform on, but rather with how some campuses are handling sexual assault.

“I don’t think that’s what needs to be reformed,” Sullivan said. “I think the new policies that have come down from the White House, recommendations really, are for the most part good, and they’re beneficial for all of us. Where it gets tricky and where part of the conflict comes is if [someone] were sexually assaulted, it’s their story, their experience and they control who they tell it to.”

Sullivan also noted that one in five women in college could be victims of sexual assault as well as one in 16 men, but many of these cases are never reported.