MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - When students return to the University of Minnesota campus in a few weeks, the ground rules in the bedroom will be a little different. President of the University, Eric Kaler is going forward with what's being called an Affirmative Consent Policy even before the Board of Regents approves it. That policy requires students to "unambiguously consent" to sex in words or actions. That consent must be "continuous and on-going.” Anything short of that could be considered sexual assault.
But the FOX 9 Investigators discovered few rapes on campus are ever reported to police, and only one in ten lead to an arrest or criminal charges.
The Fox 9 Investigators asked for all reported rapes and sexual assaults on the University of Minnesota campus for the last 10 years.
Out of 62 rapes and sex assaults reported to University police in the last decade (from 2005-2015 at U of M campus):
*23 cases are still open, some in limbo for years, waiting for new evidence.
*10 cases the victim refused to cooperate.
*1 case unfounded.
*6 cases, less than 10 percent, led to an actual arrest or criminal charges.
*Prosecution declined in 21 cases, a third of the time.
According to Katie Eichele, from the University's Aurora Center which counsels sexual assault victims, prosecutors pursue cases they know they are going to win. "So when prosecution is looking at a case they're saying what is it going to take to convince a jury. And what we know about juries is that there is victim blaming. That they carry biases; ‘what was person drinking’, ‘what were they wearing’, Eichele explained.
"Date rape cases, particularly those on college campuses, present unique challenges to law enforcement and prosecutors,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in a statement to the FOX 9 Investigators. Freeman added that alcohol is often involved, the crime is often not reported immediately, and often only two people know what really happened.
Students can file a complaint with the University's office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, known as OSCAI. It's a process that can drag out for months. The Fox 9 Investigators discovered the results aren't much better than those in the legal system.
In a recent six year period, (2008-2014 oscai cases) Out of 15 OSCAI cases:
* 3 suspensions
* 5 students placed on probation.
*4 cases a committee determined the suspect was not responsible.
*1 expulsion from the University.
University of Minnesota student Courtney Blake believes an “Affirmative Consent” policy would have made a difference in her two sexual assaults. "If you're not getting consent you're not having sex, you are sexually assaulting someone, said Blake. "It's really clarifying a rule we already have that consent needs to be given. A lot of times you don't get a "no" but you can tell your partner doesn't want to have sex.”
A few weeks into her freshman year, Blake said she was sexually assaulted by a young man she invited to watch television in her dorm room. She reported it to the University, and he was put on academic probation and forced into counseling.
"My first perpetrator is still on this campus. I walk around with pepper spray at all times it's actually behind me right now," Blake said.
She shared her experience on social media, even naming her rapist. In the video she stated: "He was allowed his own testimony changed narrative, laugh, and he called me the college whore."
Less than a year later, it happened again, at an off campus party. "Someone offered me some alcohol. I was going to leave and that's all I remember until I got home. Didn't have my clothes or my belongings and had no idea how I got there," she recalled. Friends told her to keep it quiet, that it was all a misunderstanding. But this time, she went to the hospital, then police. The student even became a suspect in a second rape. But just a couple of weeks ago, prosecutors declined to charge the case, for lack of evidence.
"Requiring some communication, 'are you okay with that', 'does that turn you on', that's reasonable and quite honestly will protect you," said Eichele of the Aurora Center.
Molly Olson is a Family Law Reform Advocate who believes the policy will place the presumption of guilt on the suspect. She thinks the policy itself is too vague, never even defining sexual activity.
"When it says continuous and on-going consent does that mean every 30 seconds you have check in? It is impractical to people's lives," Olson told the Fox 9 Investigators.
Full statement from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
Sexual assault is a crime of secrecy. U.S. Department of Justice figures indicate 60 percent of these crimes are never reported to police and, as a result, only 6 percent of perpetrators go to prison.
Date rape cases, particularly those on college campuses, present unique challenges to law enforcement and prosecutors. Often alcohol is involved. Often the only two people who know what happened are the victim and the perpetrator. If the victims are unable or unwilling to report the crime immediately, the delay increases the burden on prosecutors. Ethically, we can only charge cases where we have sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. We remain committed to prosecuting cases where consent was not appropriately given if the evidence supports such a charge.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office recognizes the unique needs of sexual assault victims, especially those that have been victimized on college campuses. The county attorney’s office has experienced, specialized prosecutors and victim advocates working on sexual assault case. The priority is victim safety and assistance in navigating the criminal justice system so they are treated with compassion and respect. We urge any victims, regardless of age, to contact police immediately so evidence can be collected and these dangerous men can be put away.