Sexual Assault Reporting

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Sexual Assault Reporting 2. Persona and POV statement Persona: Persona name: Amy Jones Age: 41 School/occupation: Mother/Teacher Location: Suburb of Detroit   Quote: "Everyone deserves to be heard with respect and empathy."   About:
  • Has a daughter and son in high school, as well as a daughter going into college
  • Teaches at a local high school
  • Enjoys facilitating a wellness group for traumatized youth
Goals:
  • Make sure her children go on to living a healthy life
  • Be a successful social change advocate
  • Challenge educational and legal policies
POV Statement:
  • User: Amy, a busy mother of an undergraduate female freshman...
  • Need: ... needs a way to feel like her daughter will be safe at college...
  • Insight: ... because sexual assault rates in college are high, and sexual predators being underreported and are unlikely to get caught for their actions.
3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: more Special Victims Units (SVUs) in high-assault areas, as well as near college campuses.

For Example, the University of Michigan's Police Department has a SVU, but the Ann Arbor Police Department does not. Sarah, a detective mentioned in the consultations section, currently has a workload of over 40 cases. Although New York, New York is a bigger city, in June 2018, NYPD said that they added detectives in order to lower case loads from 6-8 cases a month to 4-5 a month. This article also explains that NYPD says that their Special Victims Division has manageable caseloads, yet internal NYPD documents state that staffing is not adequate. This is why this is such a big issue because the true, underlying issues are not publicly accessible. They are not accessible in the largest city in New York, and they are not publicly accessible across our state. The most insight we can get on this aspect is through primary resources and direct people being affected.

SOLUTION 2: notified response from authorities within a timely manner (currently not in place and negativity impacts victims' jobs, families, psychological well-being, etc.)

Sexual assault victims not getting a response from the detectives assigned to their case is quite a common problem across the country. This is further explained in Sarah's consultation. This could be an easy implementation statewide into the police and investigation systems, as it does not require extra funding/resources and simply an email or phone call. Even Aysha's comment on having some sort of communication portal and/or a set time every week where an update is sent out, even if there is no progress on the case, would be helpful. Even if there are no case updates, relaying this information to the victim is more assuring and less stressful than getting no response. It also shows some respect for victims and acknowledges that victims endure everyday struggle while the investigation is happening, no matter where the case is actually at.

SOLUTION 3: improve training of police officers getting the initial statement/report from victims

Police officers may have some or no background when getting the initial report from victims. This is a huge issue because it is already a big deal for someone to come forward and report their sexual assault(s), and the last thing they need is an uncomfortable environment to relive and retell their story. Aysha, consultation #1, mentioned how some survivors who report feel worse doing that than the actual assault. An example is from the victim referenced in Sarah's consultation; they felt judged, uncomfortable, and stressed during their first reporting with a female officer. The officer got frustrated when the victim said that the assaults happened over a year ago and demanded why the victim didn't report earlier; the victim started to cry and feel weak. The officer also got frustrated when she had to scribble out notes on the page, and also noted that a Personal Protection Order (PPO) was just a slip of paper. At the end of the interview, the victim was asked back into the room for one last question. The officer assumed an outfit choice the victim had made had them “asking for it,” even though they were wearing a full-body-covered dress. 

BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal: The Michigan Penal Code Act 328 of 1931 Chapter LXXVI refers to the definitions and degree of sexual misconduct, as well as covers confidentiality, evidence, and victim testimony.

 

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will make a difference in students' lives of all ages and subgroups across Michigan because it would reduce the chaos/uncertainty involved in sexual assault cases, allow victims to feel more comfortable coming forward, and be conducted within a lesser time. The end hope for this proposal would be for more cases being sent to prosecutors/ending in arrests, making possible perpetrators think twice about assaulting someone and its legal repercussions.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

I learned about most of the issues underlying my proposal from my own personal experience and from my consultations. I am more passionate about this issue because of how my sexual assaults have impacted every aspect of my life. Also, the amount of people, specifically women, who are assaulted on college campuses is not surprising to me, but it is disappointing how the legal and educational systems have decided to act on it.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

My service activity has allowed me to understand that all type of people are being affected by this, even beyond students. Also, within ten minutes of my first shift with my service activity, there was a fight that led to a couple assaults for those involved and those who were simply standing by. The cops came, pressing charges was a decision that came up, and it made me wonder how soon this would actually be taken care of. This reminded me of sexual assault cases that can drag on for months, years, etc.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Sexual Assault Reporting

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1 (Aysha Abiade, SAPAC Case Manager and Advocate): Aysha has talked with others about having some type of communication portal, where survivors can pose questions and officers or investigators can answer, and share new information when it comes in. That way, survivors could check the portal for case updates. Another thought she had was having a set time in the week where the officer or investigator would send a status update, so to speak; even if the update was that there was no new news, at least the survivor would then have that information and know that, for example, the perpetrator/suspect had not yet been contacted. As to improved training, Aysha would definitely advocate for every police department having a special victims unit, intensive up-front training, and regular annual training on trauma-informed approaches and best practice in handling these cases. And ideally, training from organizations like SAPAC and SafeHouse, and regular collaboration.

CONSULTATION 2 (Sexual Assault Survivor and Reporter Rachel Preston, name change for privacy reasons): Based on Rachel's experience, her process of reporting through the university felt slightly tedious and intimidating. However, she said that university reporting was less intimidating than reporting to the police. Nonetheless, the reporting process is challenging. She mentioned a possible solution would maybe be to have universities be more encouraging about reporting. Rachel explains how they list a bunch of resources available and make them easy to find, but think they could do more to show they actually care about the victims.

CONSULTATION 3 (SafeHouse Center worker Emma Bergman): Emma believes that the training of police officers is extremely important. Often times, police will either approach the initial statement aggressively/make the survivor uncomfortable, or will say basically "it's no use- it won't go anywhere" to persuade survivors not to start a case. She thinks that giving them training on how to communicate with survivors in a way that is empowering, instead of victimizing is key. Perhaps making the reporting process easier is also an important step. For example, she says that at SafeHouse, they have a response team that will meet the survivor at the hospital and walk them through next steps. Therefore, getting a kit done, pressing charges, etc., funding more of these programs will help survivors navigate the legal system and help make them more informed.

CONSULTATION 4 (Detective Sarah Brooks, name change for privacy reasons): Sarah has worked on cases at the Ann Arbor Police Department for over 20 years. She has handled a variety of types of cases, ranging from disturbing murders to sexual assaults. In a case dealing with a sexual assault victim from the University of Michigan, she assured the victim that everything was going to be fine and that the suspect and witnesses would be contacted within the first couple of weeks of their meeting. After the meeting, Sarah let the victim know that they would be free to contact her any time to ask for updates, let her know about arising concerns or interactions with the suspect, etc. Sarah said even if the victim felt the need to send emails to her every day, she let her know that any time this would be okay.  This was March 2018, and the suspect has yet to be interviewed by the start of November 2018. The victim also expressed their concerns of retaliation of the suspect as soon as he would find out about the allegations to the detective in early August 2018. The victim sent another email the first week of school starting after no response from Sarah. This negatively impacted the victim's mental health and relationships at this time. The victim's advocate and supervisor at SAPAC then reached out to other SVU workers to see if the victim could get any response from Sarah. Sarah sent an email the first week of November to the victim, apologizing for the delayed response and notifying the victim that other cases needed immediate attention.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Austin's critique, asking which solution I found to be the most feasible, yet impactful so far and wanting me to expand into that solution positively impacted my final draft of this proposal. This helped because it helped me seriously consider the end goal: if this proposal would be presented to the House in East Lansing, I would want to provide solutions that would seem reasonable and easy to implement. Steering this proposal away from a political/social issue and into a logical one is will help to keep this proposal organized and tangible.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

My biggest challenge was determining where I would start in the research process. After completing my media artifact, I was unsure what route I wanted to take. Did I want to start with the reporting process within the university, the reported number of assault from the university, or did I want to focus on the police reporting aspect? After have some clarity from my proposal check-in meeting, I realized that a realistic and feasible option to take with this proposal would lie within the legal process. I also knew I wanted to research further on this because victims have reasons why they do not want or cannot report and they can control this, however, the low percentage of how many reports actually lead to arrest was the most alarming statistic I thought to be in the reporting process. This low percentage is not something victims can necessarily control based on the work needed to be done by the police department. Therefore, with the combination of my thoughts from experience and my consultations' expertise thoughts on the investigation process, we came up with definite problems and solutions.

I also used online resources to see what other states' sexual assault investigation timelines were, and these varied across the board. Some were shorter (lasting two months like the UO case I referenced below) and some were longer (lasting years like the Crosby case). I believe that the variations are not necessarily based on what state it was, but more so as which cases are on the high priority and low priority list, therefore determining which ones will be considered earlier and faster and which will be delayed and take longer.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

I completed the entire process and finished proposal by myself.

FORMAL PROPOSAL

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... Professional consensus (from current sexual assault advocates, survivors, and detectives) concludes that treating sexual assault survivors requires specific expertise, yet, few Michigan police departments have special victims units. Within the cities of six of the largest college institutions in Michigan (U-M, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Wayne State, Central Michigan, and Grand Valley State), only one has a Special Victims Unit (Detroit).

WHEREAS.... In the nature of the sexual assault crime/trauma, the opinion of professionals that delaying a case or case updates can contribute to compounding trauma of the survivors. Sexual assault survivors can wait up to months or a year to be notified about the status of their case.

WHEREAS.... According to sexual assault advocates, they see people routinely who have experienced the police officers conducting their initial report lacking empathy, not fully understanding/executing trauma-informed approaches, and making ill-judged statements.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Require cities that contain the 6 major college campuses noted (U-M, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Wayne State, Central Michigan, and Grand Valley State) to have an SVU of at least 3 detectives.

2. Create online communication portal and implement timely response standard (30 days) from time of initial report.

3. Mandate up-front and annual trauma-informed training of police officers by established experts (local organizations).

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. There are already SVUs on a couple Michigan college campuses, considered the highest areas where sexual assault crimes occur.

2. There is already continuous, extensive training implemented throughout the police department and up front when the officers start the job.

3. The detective’s job is to conduct the investigation and inform those involved when there is a substantial update, not to reassure survivors.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?

The proposal will mostly cost time for police departments to create a communication portal, send case updates to every sexual assault survivor on their case, and implement/conduct more up-front and annual training on trauma-informed approaches. The one aspect of the proposal that will consist of monetary costs is increasing SVUs. On average, a SVU detective makes $77,000 annually. If we had 3 detectives in each of the 6 local police departments we discussed, then the total cost for this solution would be ~$1.386 million/year. This funding, similar to city police departments, could come from federal, state, and/or local funding. Any citizen may object to dedicating resources to my proposal because this funding, if not coming from grants, would most likely come from their tax dollars. I could specifically understand if citizens never involved in the legal system would think that there is already enough funding from their tax dollars going towards police departments, however, this is a pressing issue of safety and security. Logically, this tax-funding would only be possible with an increase in taxes, and many citizens may not want or not be able to lose more of their money. Lastly, there could also be an opportunity here to reallocate police department's current budget in order to have funding for hiring SVU detectives.

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.


https://www.michigandaily.com/section/community-affairs/broken-record-student-survivor-navigates-painful-reporting-process

https://uonews.uoregon.edu/content/detailed-timeline-actions-following-march-9-allegation

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/arts/television/bill-cosby-sexual-assault-allegations-timeline.html

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nypd-directs-special-victims-detectives-to-investigate-more-rape-cases-1530060224

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Total votes: 17

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