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More Campuses Using Special Victims Units to Investigate Sexual Assaults

By September 23, 2015

Working to address concerns about both sexual assault and due process on campus, more colleges and universities are asking specially trained police units to investigate sexual assault allegations.

Earlier this month, The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona State University (ASU) police formed a special victims unit (SVU) to handle sexual assault allegations at ASU.

“The change comes as universities face increased federal requirements and scrutiny over their handling of sexual-violence complaints,” wrote the Republic’s Anne Ryman. “None of the new requirements mandates that schools form their own SVUs. But campus-safety experts said the trend is a logical step toward an environment that is more focused on victims’ needs.”

Recently, the Republic’s editorial board endorsed the use of SVUs, calling it a “significant step to assure charges are professionally handled.”

“It may also help assure due process for everyone involved, which is ultimately to the benefit of victims,” the editors wrote, adding that “[t]here are some things a university administrator or disciplinary board simply can’t do. Properly investigating sexual assault is one of them.”

Other colleges and universities with recent SVU initiatives on their campuses include the University of Connecticut, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the University of Notre Dame. Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law earmarking $4.5 million for an SVU intended to address sexual assault on New York college campuses.

FIRE has repeatedly stated that this commonsense approach helps ensure justice for both victims and the accused. FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn testified before Congress on the subject earlier this month.

FIRE commends these institutions for working with the criminal justice system, the best system we have for addressing these serious crimes.

Photo: Building on Arizona State University campus via Shutterstock.

Schools: Arizona State University University of Notre Dame Michigan State University University of Connecticut University of Michigan – Ann Arbor