Transparency key in sex assault talks

Conversations about campus sexual assault rarely gloss over the well-known figure “one in four” — and at the University of Minnesota, that statistic has proven accurate. 
Nearly 24 percent of female undergraduates are sexually assaulted while enrolled, an expansive study stated last fall. According to this formulation, there are more than 6,000 female victim-survivors on campus. Yet Minnesota Daily reporting found that the school has handled only 43 reports of sexual assault, harassment or exploitation since 2009.
Further, the same survey found that only 23 percent of University students know how the school defines sexual misconduct. Just over one-third know where to seek help, about one in four know where to report the crime and only 8 percent know what happens after they do so.
As Daily reporting found, the University’s response to sexual assault is not readily transparent. The data supporting today’s centerpiece story took months to obtain in an accurate and complete form.
Shrouded in shame, stigma, fear and silence, sexual violence remains a prevalent crime. Many have decried criminal justice processes that re-traumatize victim-survivors and question the intent and veracity of their accounts. However, the alternative for campus sex assault allegations — University adjudication — can be inconsistent, and it’s a process that largely remains behind closed doors despite public records laws.
Our community is far from knowing the true frequency and outcome of student sexual assault. If the University is serious about tackling the epidemical rates of campus rape, it can only begin to do so with concerted transparency.