Summit to prevent campus sexual assault kicks off in St. Paul

Published 10:24 am Thursday, June 9, 2016

By Peter Cox

MPR News/90.1 FM

When a sexual assault happens on a college campus, the victim’s report can trigger simultaneous investigations: One by the institution and another by police.

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Federal law requires schools to investigate, but gives little guidance beyond that. And college administrators have trouble working the highly emotional process in with their regular duties, leaving some victims frustrated.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault kicks off a two-day summit at Metro State University in St. Paul — the first of its kind in the state — to help schools understand new and existing laws, update policies and improve prevention efforts.

Madeline Wilson said she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student at St. Olaf College a year ago last spring. In September, she went into the dean’s office to file a complaint against him. Officials at the college in Northfield opened an investigation.

“When I left I just felt like this huge weight had been lifted off my chest,” she said. “I was like ‘alright, now I can carry on.’ And I really trusted them to do it well.”

Soon, though, that weight returned. She said the investigation and the school administrators overseeing it failed in many ways.

Through a complicated process that spanned months and included two investigations, Wilson said there was finally closure after the school looked into the other student hiring a private investigator during the process.

Through it all, Wilson said she felt the administrators who help with sexual assault issues didn’t seem to understand the school’s policies and the situation.