On Jan. 1, Senate Bill 969 will go into effect in Texas. Senate Bill 969 requires that schools not take disciplinary action against students who have committed a minor crime, such as underage drinking, if they are reporting any incident involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence or stalking. While the university has had this policy in place prior to the law being passed, it has brought increased attention to the ACU community.
“In a campus setting, particularly a faith based setting, I think some people may still be reluctant to report things for fear of administrative policies that might have been broken, when they were victimized or witnessed someone else being victimized,” said ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison.
“While ACU has had a longstanding policy of immunity in many of these types of cases, this new Texas law will likely help with victims or bystanders coming forward, and certainly at other universities who, unlike ACU, may have not had these types of amnesty policies already on their books,” Ellison said.
Clery Act guidelines limit universities to only include listed crimes which occurred in only three specific categories of locations; (1) on-campus, (2) on public property immediately adjacent to campus, or (3) at non-campus properties owned and controlled by ACU. As an example of this, Ellison said that ACUPD investigated an additional two instances of sexual assault allegations which were reported to have occurred at off-campus private residences during the 2016 calendar year. These two additional instances did not meet the reporting guidelines laid out in the Clery Act and thus were not apart of the report.
“The Clery Act, and the United States Department of Education, which oversees Clery Crime Report guidelines, are very specific, you only report what occurred on campus, on public property immediately adjacent to campus, or at off-campus properties owned and controlled by the institution,” Ellison said. “None of the numbers that you see in the Clery report reflect what occurred in the neighborhoods and community surrounding campus.”
While he acknowledges that ACU’s overall stats for sexual assault related cases are low, Ellison said that sexual assault is still one of the most underreported types of crimes across the country, with ACU being no exception. “We hope that through various offerings and programs, preventative education, bystander intervention training and cross-campus partnerships in places like Residence Life, and with faculty, victims at ACU feel safe in coming forward.
“We want all victims to come forward. Unreported crimes mean that there are victims out there that we are not aware of who need services, resources, and quite frankly they need justice.”