Editorial: Amnesty bill strong step forward in justice for sexual assault survivors

The bill will allow for reporters of sexual assault to go to police without fear of being cited for alcohol or drug use.

Daily Editorial Board

On Monday, the Minnesota Daily reported the Minneapolis Police Department recently implemented a policy that prevents officers from citing sexual assault reporters for underage drinking, drug use and other minor offenses in an effort to aid sexual assault victims and survivors. 

While Minneapolis already practiced this policy before it went into effect, the Daily’s Editorial Board praises the city for formalizing the policy. We believe it is an important step in decreasing the stigma surrounding intoxication and sexual assault. 

More importantly though, the Minnesota Student Association is currently attempting to push a medical amnesty bill through the state Legislature which would allow the policy to be enacted statewide. We believe this initiative is a leap in the right direction as we move beyond a long history of criminalizing and blaming victims of sexual assault. 

The Star Tribune has published a series on the hardships involved in pursuing justice in sexual assault cases. This series, “Denied Justice,” focuses on cases where Minnesota’s justice system has failed victims of sexual assault. Published on August 12, “How Alcohol Foils Rape Investigations” judges the previous Minnesota law that offered little protection for sexual assault reporters.

The article features an analysis of more than 1,000 sexual assault cases occurring between 2015 and 2016. The analysis showed that police were less likely to assign detectives to these cases, interview witnesses or forward them to a prosecutor. We believe this allows for the proliferation of victim-blaming culture and for assaulters to repeatedly get away with brutal crimes. 

However, the University of Minnesota has a different story. 

In a survey released in November, the University saw a substantial increase in reported sexual assault cases between 2015 and 2018, according to Daily reporting. This increase in reporting may be due to a policy that the University of Minnesota Police Department implemented last year. As of January 2018, UMPD does not cite sexual assault reporters for underage drinking or drug charges. Whether the increase in reports is due to the new policy or due to underreporting in prior years is unknown.

Furthermore, the city’s new policy is modeled after the medical amnesty bill in which minors are immune from underage drinking citations under certain circumstances. Medical amnesty was implemented statewide in 2013 and encourages students to call 911 for medical emergencies relating to alcohol consumption, no matter your age. These are common sense policies that allow for a safer community overall.

The City of Minneapolis is taking a step in the right direction by implementing this reporting policy. We applaud MSA for pushing the medical amnesty bill to the state legislature and urge state lawmakers to enact this policy statewide. The focus of the medical amnesty bill should reflect the need to support victims and survivors, not punish those who have the courage to speak up.