State lawmakers say the system dedicated to protecting and helping sexual assault victims in college, isn’t working the way it should. That’s why the state legislature created a task force to figure out what needs to be done to have a better system. Today, that task force met for the first time.
Morgan Lamandre, the Vice President of Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response (STAR), explains, “Sexual assault is one of the most unreported crimes to law enforcement because sometimes they’re not treated the way we want people to be treated.”
Lamandre says, first off, if we want victims to come forward, we need to start believing them.
STAR student attorney and LSU Law student, Brittanie Wagnon, says, “A man is more likely to be raped than a victim to lie about being raped, so more victims are telling the truth than the public believes.”
Wagnon says this perception needs to change and it needs to start with the people assigned to helping victims. Also, universities across Louisiana need a uniform policy on how to help victims, because right now, advocates say it’s a jumbled mess.
“There’s no uniformity between college campuses, there’s multiple policies on each campus so survivors don’t know which policies apply to them” explains Lamandre.
Under federal regulation, or Title Nine, schools have to designate a coordinator to make sure sexual assault cases are following proper procedure. But in Louisiana, it’s not working that way.
STAR student attorney and LSU Law student, Jeffrey Wheeler, says, “The problem is that, instead of having one person who’s like ‘okay, you’re the title nine coordinator,’ often this person wears many different hats. So they have A, B, C, D, E, F, all these other duties that they do.”
This means their Title Nine duties get put on the back burner, which leads to an array of problems, like a lack of follow for victims who report abuse, and a dismal outreach and awareness program for students.
“Sometimes survivors are having to, like I said, navigate the systems themselves, having to be their own advocates. So if they don’t request meetings, request status updates, they’re not being told” continues Lamandre.
Testimony from survivors and advocates paint a dire situation for sexual assault victims in our universities. But the task force seems determined to pinpoint the problems and offer solutions.
When the task force meets again in about two months, they’ll create subcommittees to tackle these problem areas.