New process in sex assault reporting

Due to a reenacted federal law with additional provisions, the university has modified its policy on sexual assaults. On Nov. 1, Dean of Students Stephanie Ives sent an email to students informing them of the amendments.

The policy – the Preventing and Addressing Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking policy – includes two main revisions, which were updated on Oct. 1, Ives said.

The first alters the policy to be more comprehensive to include sexual assault, domestic violence, dating and stalking. The second provides the resources available to the university community with respect to these crimes.

“The policy outlines for the community as a whole – faculty, staff and students – the resources that are available for victim assistance, reporting one of these crimes, how you can seek support on campus, what the Student Conduct Code says,” Ives said.

These changes were required by the Violence Against Women Act to be in effect by March 2014.

“We amended it actually ahead of time,” Ives said. “We are ahead of time in making sure our policy is comprehensive and reflecting what the government said we have to outline for our community.”

The VAWA was originally passed by Congress in 1994 and required reauthorization last year. However, due to partisan division on various elements of the bill, the law was allowed to expire in 2011 until the 107-page reauthorization was passed in March earlier this year.

Along with reinstating the provisions of VAWA, the reauthorization included amendments to the Clery Act, a federal statute which requires disclosure by all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid to publicly publish campus crime statistics.

Among others, VAWA additionally requires the number of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking cases to be reported in the Clery-stipulated annual security and fire safety report by colleges and universities.

This development comes at a time when sexual assault reports were on the rise at Temple. Seventeen sexual assaults were reported in 2013 up to Oct. 11. In the same time period the previous year, 13 sexual assaults were reported.

The Student Conduct Code was also updated to reflect these changes and includes “specific conduct violations for dating and domestic violence, as well as stalking, and new notice and appeal revisions,” according to Ives’ email.

Having been updated in 2011, the code now states that victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking can be notified of the outcome of the disciplinary proceeding and the complainant has the right to appeal the outcome, according to the code.

Ives said those policies came from a recommendation in a “Dear Colleague Letter” from the U.S. Department of Education in 2011 that stated the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “also recommends that schools provide an appeals process. If a school provides for appeal of the findings or remedy, it must do so for both parties.”

“The U.S. Department of Education really has a put a responsibility to have a process in place to adjudicate violations of its student code, which include sexual violence crimes,” Ives said.

Temple’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report has also been updated to include a section describing university procedure, resources and policies as required by VAWA. A note has also been added that domestic violence, dating violence and stalking reports will be included in the 2014 version.

Additionally, the new policy and procedure has been published online and was linked to in the mass email by Ives.

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.edu or on Twitter @MarcusMcCarthy6. 

Sean Carlin contributed reporting.

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