Bill would require colleges to survey students on sexual assaults

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Decreasing, and understanding the problem of campus sexual assaults is the focus of a new bill proposed in Washington.

About one in five undergraduate college women have been a victim of sexual assault and now a bipartisan group of U.S. senators wants colleges to follow new guidelines to better understand the scope of the problem and offer help.

Both police and advocates said sexual assaults are the most under reported crime committed, and a stronger focus from Washington could give us a better view of the problem and a chance to prevent future cases.

The bill proposed by eight U.S. senators would require schools to have students complete anonymous surveys sharing their experiences with sexual assault.

“We spend a significant amount of resources on doing prevention, on ensuring anyone who is victimized has resources, and adjudicating situations when sexual assault occurs ... It's something we take very seriously and it's not something we try to hide under the rug,” U.W. Eau Claire Dean of Students Joe Abhold said.

Abhold said using surveys could give communities a better sense of the problem than just police reports.

“We want people to report (sexual assaults). So when you get reports, it's actually a good thing instead of it just happening and hearing nobody wants to hear about it.

Some requirements of the bill, like confidential counseling, are already being done at UWEC. Center for Awareness of Sexual Assault Victim Services Director Amanda Leiknes said more can be done to prevent future cases and help victims.

“It's most often alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, and I think there's a big myth out there, especially for young women. You know, watch your drinks, and don't walk in dark alleys and don't be alone at night. When more often than not, you're most likely to be abused by someone you know, possibly in your own residence or their residence,” Leiknes said.

“I've seen more people willing to report in the last two years than I've seen in my eight years here, so I think that really speaks to the work that we're doing.”

UW Eau Claire Police had one reported case of assault in the past year, and two the year before, but Leiknes said more cases happen to students off campus.

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