Arizona State University is now one of four universities with special investigations units to deal specifically with sexual assault cases on campus.
ASU, along with dozens of other universities, has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education since last year for how it handled alleged cases of sexual assault. The university has been making changes including requiring students to attend assault awareness programs.
Another change: the addition of the Special Victims Unit to focus not just on sexual assault but dating violence, domestic violence and crimes against children.
But no matter the investigation, the five-person investigative team wants to help victims get through the traumatic events, ASU Assistant Police Chief Patrick Foster said.
“We want to help the victims find justice for their situation, and at the same time, if we create an environment where victims feel comfortable working with the police department and the university, when they’re having to go through these investigations, we’re hoping that that will get out so other victims feel more comfortable to come forward with their stories,” he said.
The group “Students for Consent,” educates students on how to prevent sexual violence, also weighed in.
“I am glad that ASU is taking the steps forward to take care of their student body and make sure the cases that come to their desk are taken with appropriate care,” said Darby Ronan, the group’s director of education for students. “And that the victims are kept in mind as they are going through this, at times, really traumatic process to have to relive and explain and be interrogated.”
The new unit began operations during the summer. The detectives have gone through extensive training in the area of sexual assault, response, investigation and victimology, according to the department.