The University of Minnesota must report sexual violence on campus annually under federal law, but whatâÄôs included in that definition could expand.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate in April, is intended to increase accountability and transparency in sexual violence reporting.
The Jeanne Clery Act already mandates that schools receiving federal funding produce an annual security report that includes statistics on forcible and nonforcible sex offenses. The new act would require reporting on domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
Sexual assault is considered the most underreported violent crime in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and college women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than their non-college peers.
One in six women and one in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault during the course of their life, according to the DOJ.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is part of an effort to make sexual violence a national priority. Its goal is to combat sexual assault through education and prevention.
The University has made steps in that direction.
âÄúThe University of Minnesota is already doing most of what they are trying to mandate across the country,âÄù Aurora Center associate director Katie Eichele said. âÄúThere might be some changes in definitions [regarding] what kinds of incidents we might be reporting.âÄù
Eichele said that statistics reported by the DOJ, which states one in five women will experience completed or attempted rape through their college career, are consistent with findings in a Boynton Health Service survey.
Public alerts, like TEXT-U, are a result of the Clery Act, University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said.
âÄúThe real intent behind the Clery Act is to create more transparency,âÄù Miner said. He said the University police coordinate with the Aurora Center to make sure their reports are as accurate as possible.
If the new legislation creates more work for them, they are âÄúhappy to comply,âÄù he said.
Many victims of rape or attempted rape may fear coming forward, and there needs to be a welcoming environment where students arenâÄôt afraid to report the crime, said Caroline Palmer, staff attorney for Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
âÄúThe fact is that it is up to the victim if they want to report it,âÄù Palmer said. âÄúI think the more we can demystify and give them information, it might encourage more people to come forward.âÄù
Accurate and complete statistics of sexual assaults are critical to schools and organizations responding to the violence, she said.
âÄúShining a light on it encourages accountability from schools,âÄù Palmer said. âÄúThey need to be tracking this information, and they need to be forthcoming with this information.âÄù
Annmarie Bodnia, a University nursing student and member of the Office for Student Affairs Student Advisory Board, said itâÄôs important to remove the stigma and raise awareness of the issue on campus. She said it is important that the University is transparent and the new act is one way to stimulate discussion.
âÄúSexual violence isnâÄôt something people normally talk about,âÄù Bodnia said. âÄúIt exists, so it should be reported.âÄù