I-Team: How colleges are preventing sex assault on campus

I-Team: How colleges are preventing sex assault on campus

(KFVS) - Right now, there's a renewed push to hold schools accountable, and make sure they're properly reporting sexual assaults on campus.

More than 100 colleges across the country are under investigation for not reporting these crimes to the federal government as required by law.

The Heartland News I-Team dug into the records of our three main universities, SIU, Murray State, and Southeast Missouri State and found no red flags.

Our schools are reporting assaults properly.

So, we decided to show you what those schools are doing to support victims, educate students and prevent those assaults from happening.

We begin at Southeast Missouri State University.

"The truth is you can do everything right your entire life, and still become a victim," said Brittany Talley-Coordinator, Campus Violence Prevention Program.

Talley serves as a counselor and advocate to students on the Cape Girardeau campus.

Talley's job is to educate and help victims through perhaps the worst time of their lives.

"I think there's a lot of movement behind supporting victims of sexual assault more than there ever has been in the past," said Talley.

But, are victims truly being heard?

We found very few cases from the past few years at Southeast made it to the prosecutor's office.

"There's a lot of shame associated with this, so people are afraid to talk about it," said Talley.

She said students are encouraged to report the assault to police, but aren't pressured to do so.

"It's about empowering the students to make their own decisions," said Talley. "We know that especially in college about 90 percent of the time the victim knows the person who assaulted them."

On the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, every student, every faculty member, and every employee must go through training on how to identify and report sexual assault on campus.

"I didn't know that it could not be my fault," said Kelly Meloy. "I just thought oh, like this had happened and I need to get over it."

Kelly Meloy is a student at SIU.

She went through that emotion, and so many others after she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance her freshman year.

She puts a face to a frightening statistic, 1 in 5 women will be a victim of sexual assault in college.

"I'm a survivor myself and working with this hits very close to home," said sophomore Kelly Meloy.

Still recovering from her own sexual assault, Meloy is also dedicated to helping others.

As a resident assistant, she's gone through an added layer of training to help identify students in need.

"There is that, I don't want to get them in trouble," said Meloy. "We're friends, I'm friends with them, because a lot of sexual assaults are acquaintance rape. And so, they don't want to get them in trouble but at the same time, they're hurting."

Meloy said education is huge, and she admits not really knowing what consent was, and wasn't, before her own assault.

Then she joined the university's "It's on Us" task force which is part of a national campaign to prevent sexual assaults before they happen.

"It's On Us" works to change the mindset of college students and to make it clear, no unwanted sexual advance is ever ok.

"On the 'It's on Us' task force, it's very easy to connect with survivors and talk to them," said Meloy. "They're in the same position as I was and I am just depending on what part of the process they're in. If they want to report, if they don't. It's definitely they're choice."

On the Murray State University campus the focus is on consent, and making sure there are no blurred lines.

"They have a right to be heard, they have a right to be afforded whatever resources we have," said Camisha Duffy.

Camisha Duffy is the Title IX coordinator at Murray State.

Title IX goes beyond athletics. It's also there to make sure students get the help they need if they're a victim of sexual assault.

"We want to be the institution where individuals can come forward and say 'hey, this is what I'm struggling with I need help,'" said Duffy.

They're required by law to accommodate these students, whether that's helping them move to a different residence hall, or making sure their grades don't slip.

Camisha Duffy believes we're seeing more reports of sexual assault than ever before.

"An increase in reporting is a win, not a loss," said Duffy.

However, she said there's still a long way to go.

There's still a stigma, and plenty of fear.

In fact, through our research we found on almost every sexual assault report over the past three years at Murray ended with the case being closed and the victim declining prosecution.

"These incidents are usually so traumatic that what the next step is isn't always the first thing that comes to mind," said Duffy.

So, who's holding all school accountable?

Right now there's a bi-partisan group of lawmakers pushing for new legislation to crack down on universities trying to bury those assault numbers.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said it's time for more transparency and accountability.

She even questions the current form of reporting through what's known as the Clery Act.

She wonders how many parents even know it exists, and offers her own suggestion.

"Frankly the Clery data doesn't really tell an accurate story of what's going on on campus," said Senator McCaskill. "So a climate survey where the students are required every couple of years to say do you believe your campus is safe, do you believe there's an effort being made to keep it safe, do you know where you could go for service if you were assaulted. That's how I think we can really make a difference."

Senator McCaskill hopes to see legislative movement on the Campus Accountability and Safety Act by the end of this year, if not by the first of next year.

In the meantime, there are links and information below on how to access our colleges' most recent federal reports so you can see the numbers for yourselves.

There's also some great information to share with your children to help keep them safe on campus.

Southern Illinois University

Southeast Missouri State University

  • The report, which is issued annually, contains detailed information on emergency services, safety tips, university policies and state laws, and additional support services, fire safety in on-campus housing, confidential crime reporting, and missing student notification protocol. If you would like to receive a copy, you can call 573-651-2215.

Murray State University

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