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Iowa's Public Universities Ahead Of Peers On Sexual Misconduct Policies

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Universities need a "three-click rule" allowing students to figure out how to report sexual assault within three clicks on their smart phones, a national sexual assault consultant told the Iowa Board of Regents.

The University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have come a long ways since 2009, when Saundra Schuster, an attorney with the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, first talked to the regents about sexual misconduct.

"You've got policies that exceed any that exist anywhere in the country," Schuster told the regents Wednesday morning as part of a training session on sexual misconduct. "It's not without a tremendous amount of work."

The regents first called on Schuster after a 2007 UI sex abuse scandal involving student athletes. A 2008 independent investigation showed the UI made mistakes by sticking to procedures instead of helping the victim. Two vice presidents were blamed for mishandling the case. They were fired.

The universities now have required sexual misconduct training for employees and have made information more readily available for students. From each institution's webpage, you can click on the A-Z search and then select "s" to find sexual assault policies and reporting options.

Still, abuse continues across the country, Schuster said, sharing these statistics:

20-25 percent of college women will be victims or attempted or actual sexual assault; 6 percent of men

13 percent of college women report being stalked each year

4 in 10 violent crimes against college students are committed by offenders perceived to be using alcohol or drugs

80-90 percent of individuals involved in sex abuse know each other

Fewer than 5 percent of student victims report to authorities or law enforcement

Regent Larry McKibben, an attorney from Marshalltown, questioned Schuster about her statement that campuses must act when they receive a complaint of sex abuse. In criminal law, these offenses must be proved in court.

"That kind of goes against our legal training," McKibben said.

But the Clery Act, a federal law, requires four actions from colleges when they receive a report of sex abuse, Schuster said. The schools must investigate, take prompt action to end the harassment, remedy the effects of the action and prevent the recurrence.

"Failing to prevent the recurrence, there is your lawsuit," she said.

Schuster pointed out further steps Iowa's public universities can take. These include ongoing sexual misconduct training for college students, climate surveys and standardized reporting language. Iowa's public universities continue to struggle with the difference between criminal investigations and the steps universities are required to take following a complaint, she said.

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