CHICAGO (CBS) — Just a week into the new school year at the University of Notre Dame, there have been three reported cases of sexual assault, testing a new school policy for responding to such reports.
This summer, Notre Dame and the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office began a new protocol for sexual assault cases at the South Bend campus: if a victim wants to file charges, and calls police, prosecutors will be notified and get involved immediately to assist with search warrants, and confer with police on evidence that could be used if the case goes to trial.
“When a sexual assault occurs, then a deputy prosecutor will be consulted,” St. Joseph County Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Cotter told WSBT-TV.
Cotter said the deputy prosecutor in a case won’t investigate. That’s up to police, but the prosecutor might ask detectives to ask certain questions, or gather specific evidence.
“When, ultimately, that case is referred to our office for evaluation and determination whether charges are appropriate they’ll have a better view of it rather than simply reading reports,” Cotter said.
His office got its first test of the new protocol on Friday, when police contacted prosecutors about a reported sexual assault on Friday. Prosecutors have not gotten involved in two other reported sexual assaults, because the victims declined to pursue charges, or have outside investigations.
Under the old policy, campus police conducted sexual assault investigations internally.
Second-year law student Alyssa Hughes told WSBT-TV people on campus were rattled after learning of the three reported sexual assaults.
“I think it’s obviously a problem that’s getting attention that’s deserved. Nobody wants to come to school and have to deal with that kind of violence,” she said. “I don’t think anybody wants to talk about it but I think it should be talked about, and I think it’s really rattled a lot of people on campus.”
Each of the cases, one Friday the others on Sunday, allegedly occurred in men’s residence halls.