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In Pursuit of Undeniable Justice: MNCASA Response to Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Denied Justice Article

On July 22, 2018, the Minneapolis Star Tribune released the first in a series of articles in which some of Minnesota’s victims/survivors of sexual assault courageously shared their experiences. Sadly, the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault was not surprised by these victims/survivors’ experiences; these stories and others are echoed by victims/survivors across the state. Every single day, in every county across the state of Minnesota, our member programs support and walk with others just like those profiled in the Star Tribune. As a community we have let down these victims/survivors.  We are sorry.  We must do better.

The brave words of victims/survivors sharing their experiences publicly has kick started a massive, statewide public conversation about sexual assault and our justice system. Statewide sexual assault policies, training, and accountability at every level of the system is necessary to ensure a victim/survivor-centered, trauma-informed response. We know that law enforcement and other systems partners want the best for victims; the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault will continue to work with all fully engaged partners to find solutions to this complex problem.

“As a board member and a member representative of the coalition, we are committed to real change that will beneficially impact the lives of victims/survivors throughout Minnesota.  We will work with all engaged, active partners including survivors, law-enforcement, medical professionals, prosecution, courts and legislators to ensure that we use this moment to create responses where victims are believed and taken seriously, with cases vigorously investigated and prosecuted. The Star Tribune articles present an opportunity for real and honest conversations about the systems’ response to sexual assault in Minnesota.  As advocates, we need to be clear about where we stand.  We stand with victims/survivors,” said Becki Jordan, Board Chair and staff of a MNCASA member organization.

Though the Star Tribune articles thus far have focused on law enforcement, this is a systemic criminal justice issue. We all are accountable for ensuring an effective response to sexual assault.  We need collaborative solutions to complex problems.

“Judgement placed on victim/survivor decisions and choices are harmful. The discrediting of victims/survivors’ experiences allows perpetrators to operate with impunity.  This is true for every community in Minnesota.  This is inexcusable and must change. With our allies, we will tirelessly work to solve this complicated and pervasive problem of a systemic failure in our response to sexual violence.“ said Teri Walker McLaughlin Executive Director of MNCASA. “We will convene. We will listen. We will collaborate. We will document. And we will be transparent. We will create a comprehensive response that includes policy, protocol, training, and accountability.  It is on each of us to start by believing and support victims/survivors in every way possible.”

MNCASA believes that accountability within all levels of the system is crucial.  We recognize to date that the POST Board has not had the legislated authority to monitor, evaluate, and hold licensees accountable—we would like to see the POST board empowered to do so. Specifically, we are calling for:

  • Enhanced monitoring compliance with policies and investigating complaints: The legislature should empower an entity with the explicit role of monitoring and investigating non-compliance with policies.
  • Data Collection and Transparency: Data must be collected for review and publication.
  • Model policy creation and adoption: Once enforcement mechanisms are established, we must create a statewide model policy.
  • Expansion of the role and authority of the POST Board: The POST Board must be provided clear authority to sanction individual peace officer licensees and Chief Law Enforcement Officers when there are repeat and substantial noncompliance with departmental policies. Diversify the Board to include broader community representation, specifically victim/survivor and advocacy.

Resources cannot be a barrier. This will require reprioritization of existing resources and the allocation of additional resources.  Advocacy, prosecution, and other avenues to solutions will continue to be explored in our ongoing discussion about changing our systems for the better.

We are seizing this opportunity for real change by partnering with stakeholders in erasing these gaps for victims/survivors.  This effort must include intentionally addressing the root causes of sexual violence. Join us in upholding community-based advocacy. Join us in our commitment to start by believing and supporting ALL victims/survivors throughout Minnesota.

If you are a victim/survivor in search of community based advocacy, visit rapehelpmn.org to find an agency near you.  Services are free and confidential.