Student fights for sex-crime reporting

A former GAPSA president wants to expand the def. of sexual assault.

Cali Owings

In light of recent sexual assaults, Kristi Kremers, former Graduate and Professional Student Assembly president, is trying to use student government to change crime reporting on campus.
For Kremers, the mission is personal. She was attacked last summer after being followed home in her vehicle.
On July 10, Kremers was on her way to her apartment in the Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative, graduate and family student housing on the St. Paul campus, when she noticed a car had been following her for about four miles. The driver held back and turned off the headlights.
When she left her vehicle, she was approached from behind by a man wearing a âÄúballerinaâÄù top and pink skirt who grabbed her butt. She screamed and was able to scare away the attacker and note his license plate number.
Kremers said before she was attacked she had a âÄúfairy taleâÄù notion that if something bad were to happen to her, she could trust that justice would come from it.
But she encountered so many problems in reporting her attack, she said, that she wants to help future victims by making improvements to the system.
First, her 911 call was sent to Ramsey County before being re-directed to the University of Minnesota Police Department.
The responding officer told her he was going on vacation so it would be five days before she could get any more information about her case, she said.
In the meantime, Kremers said she moved because she was scared the attacker knew where she lived.
Though Kremers said she believed her attacker intended to rape her, he could only be charged with a misdemeanor for assault since he groped her over clothing.
Minnesota law regarding fifth-degree criminal sexual contact  âÄúdoes not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.âÄù
As outlined in the UniversityâÄôs Sexual Assault, Stalking and Relationship Violence Policy,  âÄúsexual assault is actual, attempted or threatened sexual contact with another person without that personâÄôs consent.âÄù
âÄúYou are re-victimized every single time you have to go through another step, another hurdle,âÄù Kremers said.
So she created an ad-hoc campus safety committee between GAPSA and the Minnesota Student Association to empower victims of sexual assault to give feedback about what they encountered in the legal process.
She said it would be an opportunity for victims of sexual assault to âÄúhave their own power again.âÄù
At the center of KremerâÄôs agenda is the existing Clery Act, which requires all schools that participate in the federal financial aid program to disclose information about campus crimes, including sexual assault.
Under the Clery Act, âÄúcampus security authoritiesâÄù  including student health centers, womenâÄôs centers, deans, coaches, faculty advisers and housing directors are required to report. Licensed mental health professionals and religious counselors are not required to disclose this information.
The Aurora CenterâÄôs 2009 report  said it handled 99 cases of sexual assault from July 2008 through June 2009. This contrasts with the 22 cases reported to  University police. In KremersâÄô eyes, the University is not in compliance with Clery Act crime reporting standards because the Aurora Center is a University office, so its numbers should be funneled to University police.
Becky Redetzke Field, legal advocacy and direct services coordinator for the Aurora Center, said the numbers could differ because the center also serves Augsburg College  and handles on-campus and off-campus cases. In addition, some victims report assaults that happened a year or two ago that wouldnâÄôt be filed in the University policeâÄôs Clery reporting for 2009.
Kremers and the campus safety committee addressed a slew of resolutions pertaining to her concerns about sexual assault reporting on campus during their meeting Monday.
Her proposed changes include:
âÄ¢    Fixing the geo-coding for 911 calls from residents of the Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative  and improving lighting in the area.
âÄ¢    Expanding the definition of sexual assault to more broadly include any unwanted sexual contact.
âÄ¢    Creating anonymous reporting so crime statistics are more accurate.
âÄ¢    Including cases of simple assault in the UniversityâÄôs annual Clery Report.
Kremers is not alone in her quest to change the culture of sexual assault on campus.
MSA passed a position statement Nov. 9 indicating its support of victims of sexual assault.
MSA representative Drew Horwood, who authored the statement, said it seemed âÄúsimple,âÄù but he hoped it would stop students from acting as bystanders.
âÄúWe want this to be a massive initiative to change the general tide of student opinion,âÄù Horwood said. âÄúSexual violence is never acceptable.âÄù