Schneider: Candidates need to talk about how they plan to address sexual assault in MN

Candidates haven’t had much to say about sexual assault, despite mounting concern.

Ellen Schneider

In the midst of a particularly contentious midterm season, candidates are desperately latching on to national taglines and party politics. Instead of discussing relevant, local issues, candidates continue pushing partisanship agendas by fixing on polarizing issues like health care and support — or lack thereof — for the President. 

There are real, tangible issues that have rocked the community and deserve attention and acknowledgment and yet, candidates have little to say about these subjects.

One such issue is the apparent systemic inefficiencies in reporting sexual assault across Minnesota. The Star Tribune’s “Denied Justice” series outlines institutional ineptitude in reporting, investigating and addressing sexual assaults in Minnesota. The series depicts the various ways in which victims are left without justice, including an ill-equipped police force, unwilling prosecution and protections for offenders.

According to the Star Tribune, only 12 percent of sexual assaults result in a charge and 7 percent result in convictions. This is unacceptable, to say the least. The people of Minnesota are being failed and candidates are willingly turning a blind eye.

The problem is a complex one. It requires full-fledged, comprehensive reform from the top down. That means holistic plans and strict stances from candidates. The police department has various issues, which neither start nor end with sexual assaults. However, most candidates are less than eager to touch the matter.

Candidates looking to win Minnesotans’ votes should address issues that are important to Minnesotans. Not simply touting party politics and repeating partisan slogans. I’m not interested in lazy politicians or the regurgitation of national partisan rhetoric. Candidates should be focused on issues at home, the ones that matter to residents here — not blind repetition based on party allegiances.

With concern surrounding police department and their various shortcomings, candidates should be working to outline their own plans for tackling this problem. Comprehensive reform is an absolute must.

Victims of sexual assault have gone without resources and have been stripped of their integrity for too long. To ignore this issue during debates, rallies and advertisements is to ignore the thousands of people in Minnesota who have been failed by the justice department.

Sexual assault and adequate means of addressing it deserve attention from candidates. It is a sensitive, complicated and contentious issue. If candidates are truly looking to do what is best for the people of Minnesota, they should be spending less time tweeting indolent attacks at their opponents and more time drafting ways to implement institutional change.  

I want more police working to investigate sexual assaults, as well as more training for those officers. There needs to be a more prompt system that updates victims about their cases. I want alcohol to no longer be an excuse to victim-blame. I want a more willing prosecution and a new level of accountability. I want sexual assaults to be taken as seriously as they deserve to be. 

Candidates looking for our votes need to understand that sexual assault victims deserve a system that works for them. A system in which repeat offenders are not left unscathed, where guilt and culpability are not left on the heavy shoulders of victims. We cannot stand for this any longer. Victims cannot be failed by the system and subsequently disregarded by those vowing to change Minnesota for the better. A better Minnesota is one that stands with and fights for assault victims. Not one that willfully betrays them.