WMKY

Beshear, AGs push for protections of sexual assault survivors on college campuses

Jul 20, 2017

Credit Odyssey Online

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear and a group of state attorneys general are asking federal education officials to work with them before rolling back protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.

According to a July 19 letter from the 20 AGs, the U.S. Department of Education’s current guidance reaffirms the obligation of colleges and universities to protect survivors of sexual assault. 

Among other provisions, the guidance reaffirms that Title IX requires institutions to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in investigating allegations of sexual harassment or domestic violence. 

“While we all recognize that there is a great deal more that can be done to protect students and agree on the importance of ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, a rushed, poorly-considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students,” the AGs write. “Yet there is every indication that is exactly the approach your department is taking.”

The letter, sent to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, mentions deeply troubling comments by an acting federal education official who has reduced efforts to identify systematic problems in conducting campus sexual assault investigations.

Beshear and the group of AGs are urging the federal agency to convene a group of survivors, victims’ advocates, law enforcement officials and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to work together on ending sexual violence on the nation’s college and university campuses. 

Beshear’s Office of Victims Advocacy recently created a statewide map of victim advocates that includes local and regional prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. The map provides information on the state’s victim advocates – county attorneys, commonwealth’s attorneys, sheriffs’ offices, police departments and the AG’s office.

Beshear provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers in 2016 to fund requested Kentucky State Police crime lab upgrades and an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in conducting victim-centered investigations and prosecuting sexual assault offenders.

Along with funding, Beshear has created a survivors council; held multiple state trainings on the SAFE kit backlog; launched a collaborative research project with the University of Louisville to provide accountability to address the backlog; and collaborated with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs to hold the #VoiceOfJustice video contest to raise awareness of sexual assault on campus.

(story provided by Office of the Attorney General)