Daily Egyptian

SIU implements changes to sexual assault policies under new Illinois law

Daily Egyptian file photo

Daily Egyptian file photo

By Marnie Leonard

SIU has added new regulations for responding to sexual violence to fit procedural requirements outlined in expanded Illinois legislation that took effect in August, university officials said.

The law, which applies to all universities and colleges in the state, details new rules for defining consent, ensuring student confidentiality and overseeing sexual consent training. Most of what the law requires was already in place through existing campus policies, but the largest change is the addition of a confidential adviser to university personnel, said Casey Parker, SIU’s coordinator for diversity and equity.

“I can guarantee privacy, but I would have to do a report under the law,” said Parker, whose job involves counseling and advising students who have reportedly been sexually assaulted. “I can’t guarantee confidentiality like the confidential adviser.”

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SIU’s confidential adviser, Rebecca Gonnering, is required to provide emergency and ongoing support for victims of sexual assault. Although Gonnering can withhold names of those assaulted, the number of people who come in to receive counsel is recorded because, under the new law, the university has to send data about incidents, reports and complaint resolution outcomes to the attorney general’s office.

Gonnering is currently the lone confidential adviser at the university, but Parker said if the need arises there may be more hired in the future.

MORE: Majority of sexual assaults at SIU are in student housing

The university has also adopted an amnesty policy for reporters of sexual violence. Parker said the university had already practiced an informal amnesty policy before the passage of the legislation, but it is now cemented in place under Illinois law.  

The policy is meant to encourage victims and witnesses of sexual assault to come forward without fear of facing sanctions from the university for breaking other rules outlined in the Student Code of Conduct, such as underage drinking, Parker said.

“If someone has been drinking and they were sexually assaulted, they might not want to tell somebody,” Parker said. “But they’re not going to get in trouble, and that’s a new provision that the state law requires.”

In previous years, only incoming students were required to do consent and respect training. Now, each student is obliged to do so every year.

Within the next week, all students and employees will be notified via email of the online training process, Parker said.

MORE: SIU under U.S. Department of Education investigation for handling of sexual assault cases

The training is required to detail SIU’s definition of consent, methods of reporting sexual crimes, campus services for survivors, risk reduction practices and bystander intervention strategies, according to the Illinois Compiled Statutes database.

The new law also requires that universities have a comprehensive sexual assault policy that includes electronic, anonymous and third-party reporting options for students.

Illinois universities are also compelled to send an electronic response to reports made within 12 hours and provide contact information for counseling and medical sources to victims of sexual assault.

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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