No Easy Answers At Third Roundtable Discussion With U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill

Posted by On Thursday, July 10, 2014

We’ve previously written about the first and second roundtable discussions that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill held over the past couple of months. The third roundtable discussion held on June 23rd dealt with improving collaboration between local law enforcement and campus police, and the recurring question of how to bring perpetrators to justice. However, at the end of the day it was clear that there are no easy answers.

Nancy Cantalupo, a research fellow at the Victim Rights Law Center and adjunct law professor at Georgetown University, pointed out that sexual response teams have been a key best practice that brings internal and external people together. While she admitted that the relationship among the different perspectives and different goals may be dysfunctional at first, once they work through their differences, collaboration works.

Victim advocates emphasized confidentiality because “self-blame and shame has persisted among victims.” However, law enforcement explained that reporting to police so they can begin collecting evidence as soon as possible is critical to successful prosecutions in the criminal justice system. But, it was pointed out, until victims trust the system they won’t report to police and put their character and credibility on trial.

Carrie Hull, a detective with the Ashland, Oregon Police Department said her experience confirmed that confidentiality and reporting go hand in hand. After sexual assault victims were given options and, therefore, control over how their case was handled reports in Ashland rose 106% from 2010 to 2013. In Ashland, victims are given three options: (1) report information only, (2) authorize a partial investigation, or (3) request a complete investigation that will be referred to a prosecutor.

Jessica Ladd-Webert, the Victim Assistance Director at the University of Colorado at Boulder, agreed that when a victim has an advocate who gives them all of their options and helps them pursue the one they choose, it builds trust. Therefore, designating victim advocates as confidential resources, not mandated reporters, is critically important for victims.

According to these experts, giving victims confidentiality and control provides the support they need to increase reporting. The next question is how to make campuses safer by holding perpetrators accountable. The answer to that question is still being debated.

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