I-Team: Top gov't officials address campus sex assaults

April 24, 2014 (CHICAGO)

For thousands of women on university campuses, the most important lesson they will learn during their college years will not be from a textbook or a professor or even in a classroom. Their lesson will be that the system is broken for victims of campus sexual assault.

On Thursday afternoon, Loyola University was one of the first stops by top justice department officials on a nationwide tour talking campus sexual assault and domestic violence.

"This isn't just an occasional occurrence, it happens every day," said Father Michael Garanzini, Loyola University President.

It's a numbing assessment of how serious this problem is across the country.

And when campus sexual assaults do occur, the personal pain is compounded by this: many cases go unreported, and student-offenders are not prosecuted or even punished, creating statistics that make many colleges appear safer than they are.

"When I think about those statistics and think about the pain those individuals experience, very quickly this becomes something much more than some abstract policy debate," said Tony West, U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department's No. 3 official appearing with U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan at Loyola, which is among the universities receiving "violence against women" grant money.

"One of the things we're highlighting are Justice Dept. grantees like Loyola who have invested in developing a coordinated community response to begin to get our arms around this issue," said West.

"I'm so proud that my law school alma mater Loyola has decided to stand up to this issue and to face it head on and not to ignore the reality that your students face," said Lisa Madigan.

Four hundred million dollars in federal money is being allocated this year to address sexual assaults on campuses, those places where young people walk from childhood to adulthood.

"We literally entrust universities with our children and count on them to guide safe passage over those bridges," said Fardon.

On ABC7 Eyewitness News on Monday at 10 p.m., the I-Team digs into this issue: colleges accused of downplaying campus rape; the federal investigation of procedures at some U.S. universities and our interview with one sex assault survivor at a Chicago university who was encouraged to just talk things out with her attacker.

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