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DOJ Reveals Mishandling of Sex Assault Cases

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The Department of Justice's investigation revealed a pattern of mishandling reports of sexual assault at the University of Montana.

Now, UM officials are tasked with meeting new standards set by the DOJ, with the ultimate goal of creating a safer campus.

Officials at UM must revise policies, provide training to staff and education to students on reporting and handling sexual assault.

DOJ investigators found specific evidence of University employees mishandling reports of sexual assault over the year-long investigation.

They found some campus officers had inappropriate sex stereotypes, evidenced by their use of the term "regretted sex" when responding to reports of sexual assault.

"We had some concerns about some retaliation against those who made complaints," said U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin Jr.

Austin said gaps in UM policies and the student conduct code, and a lack of training were to blame.

"This has been a difficult time, obviously, a time of challenge for all of us," said UM President Royce Engstrom.

Engstrom said correcting gender stereotypes will be a big part of increasing the safety and well being of students.

"Part of the agreement going forward is to strengthen the process on campus, whether it's through the student conduct code or some separate process, but to have in place a more robust process for working these kinds of issues on campus," Engstrom said.

Austin said the university community needs to create clear and concise policies and procedures on what to do when students make reports of sexual assault.

He explained, "Students need to know exactly where to go when they have an incident occur to them, they need to know exactly where to go, what's going to happen when they go there."

Resolution agreement documents show UM must provide a student resource guide for reporting sexual assault and implement a system to track those complaints.

UM officials must also hire an independent monitor who will track the university's compliance with the agreement, and report back to the DOJ.

"The University of Montana does indeed have a blueprint moving forward to ensure a safe and wholesome environment for all students, faculty and staff," said U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter.

DOJ officials said their investigations into the Missoula Police Department and County Attorney's Office are ongoing.

"We've had numerous  conversations with the county attorney and have still not found a place for cooperation there," Austin said.

If the County Attorney does not cooperate, Austin said the DOJ can bring litigation and have a judge order they turn over the information the DOJ needs.

Police Chief Mark Muir said they're not commenting on the investigation, but the DOJ says that investigation will be completed soon.

UM officials have three years to meet most aspects of the agreement, but they already have deadlines approaching this month.

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