Truman sex assault policy to remain unchanged amid national controversy

The annual Security and Fire Report from Truman shows that over the past three years, only 8 cases of rape on campus have been reported. (KTVO File)

An announcement by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will now allow colleges and universities to pick a more stringent approach to evidence in sexual assault complaints.

KTVO spoke with officials at one Heartland university about how they plan to deal with the changes, and what it could mean for your student's safety.

"Every week, I am dealing with students who are affected by different kinds of sexual misconduct, be it harassment or exploitation or you know, the worst case scenarios are the assaults and rapes."

Jamie Ball, the Institutional Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator at Truman State University, isn't exaggerating.

Statistics show one in five women will be sexually assaulted before graduation.

But, even that number is only an educated guess.

One of the biggest challenges to combating the sexual assault epidemic, experts across the country agree - is reporting.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates that 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.

After an announcement by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday, advocates say it could discourage reporting even more.

Last week, universities across the country were required to handle sexual assault complaints with a 'more likely than not' standard.

Now, schools can decide whether to keep that standard, or whether to use the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' approach that is used in criminal cases.

"It doesn't require any specific changes to current policies and procedures," said Ball. "It does create a little uncertainty about the future for rules and guidance related to Title IX, so I think the next year is going to be pretty interesting. For now, it's kind of a wait and see situation."

Ball adds that students at Truman should know that the process they have become accustomed to are not changing.

"Here at Truman, we do follow the preponderance of the evidence standard when adjudicating cases involving sexual misconduct allegations."

The office of U.S. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri told KTVO they are pleased Truman won't be changing it's standard.

McCaskill, a longtime advocate for sexual assault reform on college campuses, says the policy change is a step backward.

"Secretary DeVos has taken the progress we've made protecting survivors and making our campuses safer, and thrown that progress into chaos."

Some say students may now be more hesitant to report an incident that happened on campus. However, school officials say they hope that is not the case.

"I do think that this change in the language, the conversation regarding Title IX can have the unintended impact of discouraging reporting," said Ball. "Here at Truman, because our policies are not changing, I'm hoping that we can get the message out that nothing is changing in our policies and our procedures. All of the protections that were in place last week are still in place today."

The annual Security and Fire Report from Truman shows that over the past three years, only 8 cases of rape on campus have been reported.

However, that number has the potential to be much higher.

Whether or not a survivor decides to report an assault, Ball says there are always resources available to students.

"As I tell students often, there is a lot of things they can do in that situation, but there is very few things they have to do. It's all about being informed and making informed decisions that are consistent with what the student perceives as their own best interest."

To learn more about the Institutional Compliance Office at Truman State University, click here.

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