While the State Board of Regents has directed all three state-supported universities to work together to come up with a uniform plan to address sexual assault cases on campus — the issue of whether to require mandatory reporting of assaults to police is still up in the air.
University of Iowa president Sally Mason says her school will strongly encourage reporting to police while work is underway on the new policy. Regent Michael Gartner of Des Moines asked her about that decision.
Mason says they’ve had some heated discussions on the issue because of the "sometimes chilling effect" the reporting can have on victims coming forward.
Mason says while she appreciates that concern, she feels very strongly the best chance for an investigation of an assault is to let police know as soon as possible. Regent Bonnie Campbell is the former Attorney General of the state and says it’s an issue that has no easy answer.
"It is the crux of a very difficult issue in this whole discussion," Campbell says. She says a rape exam is a critical thing for the victim to do because his or her body is the crime scene. Campbell says she also understands how requiring a report can keep victims from coming forward.
Campbell says there’s an ongoing debate on mandatory reporting and advocates could probably stand up and give a speech in a heartbeat about how many victims don’t come forward for fear of getting "caught up in the swirl of victim blaming and media attention." Campbell says she’s torn on the issue as a prosecutor, and as someone looking to support victims.
Campbell says she’s always had sympathy for the notion of reporting the crime immediately to get the best prosecution, "but if it has the opposite unintended affect, which there is pretty good evidence that it does, then I come down on the side of not mandating reporting."
Gartner says rape is a "crime of violence" and won’t be viewed that way until it is treated that way, and asked if it would help if the victim were required to report, but not required to cooperate with the investigation. Regents president David Miles says it’s an issue the needs more discussion.
Miles says it’s an issue that should be considered in the final policies as there are clearly pros and cons, but Miles said it would be "ill-advised" to take a different approach until they make their final decision.
The entire discussion and move to change campus polices comes in the wake of the alleged sexual assault of a female athlete by two former U-I football players in a university dorm room. The subsequent report on the alleged assault says the university did not try to cover it up, but the policies used to handle the issue were flawed.