ASU leads with new SVU unit to investigate sexual assault

It has plagued the halls of dorms and seeped into surrounding city streets. Lines of consent are blurred by alcohol as music plays loudly in the background, creating the issue discussed on campuses everywhere.

Sexual assault has been the pressing issue that dominates current headlines. It causes students to shake their heads and parents to cringe as they drop their new student off at their coed dorm.

Because of the numerous crimes committed each year that fall under this category, ASU is taking a step in the right direction by adding a Special Victims Unit to the ASU Police Department. This department will specialize in the investigation of cases involving “physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence and crimes against children.”

Although there may be a peace of mind that sweeps over the campus as detectives will be dedicated to investigating these heinous crimes, is it really enough? Investigation can only go so far and occurs after the crime is committed.

Education seems like the answer to preventing this issue, but as some may remember, a brief course was sent out to ASU students regarding the issue entitled “Consent and Respect” during the spring semester. ASU provided the education, and now our school is diving deeper into the issue.

One may be concerned that ASU is using these tactics to look better to the public, to appear as a safer university for students to attend. On the policing side, ASUPD is not immune to the criticisms that other police departments have come under fire for. 

However, with the Special Victims Unit being implemented, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to assume that ASU doesn’t care about the well-being of their students. ASU has gone above and beyond its obligations as required by the Justice Department's investigation into sexual assault on campus. Optimistically, administrators must care on a certain level, and even if it is a publicity stunt, who’s to say students won’t utilize the new installment?

Perhaps the fact that there is a dedicated unit with jurisdiction on the four campuses will encourage victims to report crimes committed against them. Considering only 3.1 percent of female students and 1.2 percent of male students at ASU reported they experienced sexual assault this past year, it’s fair to say that majority of occurrences go unreported.

ASU has already seen a decrease in female students reporting sexual assaults, from 4.7 percent to 3.1 percent this past year. They are obviously making the right moves, and the university furthering its involvement in creating a safe campus for all has the potential to decrease the numbers evermore.

The opportunity to create a great program that could encourage other universities to implement similar tactics is one of which ASU must take advantage. President Obama himself reported that 1 in 5 women in college are sexually assaulted, and only 12 percent of the crimes are reported. He created a national campaign a year ago to combat the issue, proving each campus needs to go the extra mile in preventing sexual assault.

The fact that a university as huge and far-flung as ASU is implementing a Special Victims Unit to combat this national issue is a feat that can not go unnoticed. This campus has the potential to set the precedent of how universities should handle such situations. We can only hope the department lives up to its potential and more universities follow suit.

Related Links:

Broadening the scope: How ASU's sexual assault programs fit into larger conversation

Obama pushes end to sexual assault epidemic on college campuses

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