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Department of Justice rolling out new plans to fight sexual assaults on college campuses

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Officials at the state Department of Justice are stepping up their efforts to help protect incoming college students from sexual assaults on campus.

Crime Victim Services director Jill Karofsky says the problem is pervasive, even if it is not being reported. "We'd have to be completely blind to the notion of sexual assault to think that there's any campuses in this state or this country where people are not being sexually assaulted." Officials estimate that one in five women and one in twelve men who enroll in secondary education this fall will be sexually assaulted before they graduate.

Many of these assaults go unreported or only head to campus level review boards. Karofsky says people just feel afraid to report assault on campuses and that's a problem. "Certainly if you're a male victim on a college campus, that might be even more difficult to report. Women victims and male victims too are afraid that people won't believe them, and those fears are borne out by what we read in the press."

In order to help fight this problem, state officials are rolling out new training for students, for college staff, and for police across the state to help them find and help victims of sexual assault. "We now have an assistant attorney general at the Wisconsin Department of Justice whose whole job is to train officers on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking." Karofsky says the state is also working to help ease the paperwork involved in forensic exams and sexual assault testing before charges are filed.

Officials are also looking at changing the way that education about sexual assault is handled, and moving the emphasis away from educating women about the dangers they face and towards men and how they should be treating women in the situations that lead to sexual assault.

Attorney General JB Van Hollen says his department will be working hard on the issue. "Effectively addressing sexual violence with students, faculty, and staff and maintaining our focus on the perpetrators of these crimes, while supporting victims, ensures that all students have the opportunity to learn and thrive in a safe and secure environment."

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