Possible changes to reporting sexual assaults at colleges frighten women


SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – A possible proposal to the way sexual misconduct on college campuses is handled is being met with criticism.

The New York Times is reporting that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies on how these cases should be handled on college campuses.

According to the report, DeVos will issue guidelines that give more support to students who are accused of rape, harassment or assault.  The proposed rule would also limit a college’s liability and impose higher standards to determine if the school handled the complaint properly.

A major change under this possible guideline change is allowing a mediation process where the accused can question the victim and review the evidence.

“The proposed policy is really concerning to me,” said Madeline MacDonald, an alleged victim of sexual assault.  “I feel (mediation) could be really dangerous and discourage reporting.”

MacDonald reported her sexual assault to Orem police but prosecutors refused to press charges.  To this date, she is puzzled as to why charges were not filed against Samuel Butler.  Last year, Butler was charged with the rape of a woman at Dixie State University.

MacDonald said her incident happened before the alleged campus rape in St. George.  According to police reports, Butler is under investigation for the sexual assault of at least four other women.

MacDonald said having to meet face to face with suspected rapists is frightening.

“The prospects of being questioned and having your story doubted and having to repeat it especially in front of your assailant is really re-traumatizing,” she said.  “(It) causes a lot more trauma than the original assault does.”

A spokesperson with the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City said rapes are already under-reported.  Stephany Murguia said only 20 percent of reports are currently reported.  She fears this will cause woman not report their sexual assault.

“It is disheartening to read that these proposals might take us some steps back,” said Murguia.  “Because we’ve been making so much progress in the last couple of years.

Last year, Secretary DeVos did away with rules created by the Obama Administration.  Those rules outlined the responsibilities of schools and colleges in the handling of sexual misconduct.  Victims rights groups criticized the move but DeVos claimed the guidelines set by the previous administration were an overreach.

Meanwhile, MacDonald only wishes prosecutors would have believed her and press charges against Butler. 

“I like to believe had my case been prosecuted that those other women wouldn’t have been assaulted.

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