Minnesota law now mandates sex assault training for students

All Minnesota college students must now take a compulsory sexual assault prevention course.

Melissa Steinken

All University of Minnesota students are now required to complete sexual assault awareness training as part of a new state law aimed at reducing sexual misconduct on college campuses.

Under the law, which took effect Aug. 1, colleges must offer online sexual assault reporting options for students and require them to complete training sessions within the first 10 days of their first semester. Law enforcement agencies and schools must also cooperate when investigating sexual misconduct. The law also mandates that institutions must report sexual assault statistics.

At the University — where 23.5 percent of females and about 5 percent of males report being sexual assaulted while enrolled — all incoming freshman were required to complete the two-part, 10 section training called Haven Plus.

All other students, including graduate and professional students, will have to finish any incomplete or unstated training sessions from previous years, said Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education Director Katie Eichele.

“It is one step to simply have one online training module but research says that won’t solve the problem,” Eichele said.

The Aurora Center paired with greek life, University Athletics, Housing and Residential Life and International Student Scholar Services to administer the online training.

During her work welcoming new freshmen, Minnesota Student Association President Abeer Syedah said she was overwhelmed by first year students’ knowledge of sexual assault resources on campus.

“The University of Minnesota has a lot of students transfer into the school from other colleges in the state, and if you had a lot of resources transferring in here, it’s important to have consistency,” Syedah said.

The University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action works to consolidate sexual assault policies into a universal one, said EOAA director and Title IX Coordinator Kimberly Hewitt.

“We recognize the biggest challenge is that people feel like [cases] take a long time,” she said.

The state’s new sexual misconduct policy will extend to sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.

Yvonne Cournoyer, prevention program manager at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said one of the biggest changes in the new law is comprehensive training for campus security officers and administrators investigating assault cases.

Now, security officers will hear presentations on sexual assault, neurobiological responses to trauma and how to respond to sexual assaults, Cournoyer said.

“A lot of times people don’t have an understanding of the best way to respond to sexual assault,” she said. “It’s very common for people to freeze, not run or scream.”

Colleges will have to send statistical records of assaults to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education by Oct. 1.

To help protect students’ privacy at smaller institutions, the data will only specify “fewer than ten students”, said Nichole Sorenson, OHE research analyst and lead analyst of data collection.

“My perspective of the purpose of the data collection is to increase transparency around sexual assault on campuses and help to inform the public better of these occurrences,” she said.

She said the data will be made available to the public near early December.