Sexual violence becomes topic of national concern

Decision on allegations at MU expected by mid-May

On Friday, Erin Karshen, Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney, reviewed the case of an alleged sexual assault by four student athletes at Marquette and returned the case to the Milwaukee Police Department for further review.

In a Friday Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, Karshen stated the DA’s office expects to make a decision on whether to issue charges by mid-May. The district attorney’s office declined further comment on the review.

Attempts to contact Gerry Boyle, the lawyer representing the four athletes at a disciplinary hearing according to a WISN 12 report, were also unsuccessful.

The case was initiated by MPD on March 22, according to police reports. Questions remain concerning why the case was brought to the police nearly five months after the alleged assault occurred at a party in Humphrey Hall on Oct. 30.

Neither university nor Milwaukee officials concerned with the case had any new updates at press time, as the case is still under investigation.

MPD has no new information to share at this time, said Anne E. Schwartz, MPD public relations manager, in an e-mail.

Kate Venne, director of university communication, said the case was handed over to the university’s Division of Student Affairs, which found the students not guilty for sexual assault under the student conduct code. She also said disciplinary proceedings were followed as outlined in the student handbook.

According to the student handbook, after a report is filed by the Department of Public Safety, the case is referred to a student conduct administrator who reviews the case and decides to handle it through an administrative hearing or a student conduct review board hearing. Venne said in this case a panel of students was not used, indicating an administrative hearing.

She added that she is unable to comment on case specifics due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of student education records.

Cases such as this one occurring in other schools nationwide have prompted national attention from the White House. On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden announced a new administrative effort to help the nation’s schools address sexual violence.

Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plan to send guidance letters to schools, colleges and universities across the country to help them understand their obligations under the Title IX federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault problems, according to a White House press release.

“Today we are strengthening our response to sexual assault in schools and on college campuses,” Biden said in the release. “Students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn. That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus.”

Under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, discrimination can include sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion.

The guidance letter details enforcement strategies that schools and the department’s Office for Civil Rights may use to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects, the release said.

“Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence, but the facts suggest otherwise,” Duncan said.

The letter said that a report prepared for the National Institute of Justice in 2007 found that one in five women is a victim of attempted or completed sexual assault in college.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights is already providing schools with technical assistance and seeking remedies to end sexual assault, said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali.

“Schools are often in the best position to prevent sexual violence and to respond to it promptly and effectively if it occurs,” she said in the release.