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2019: Report sheds light on sexual assault issues

Access Press 1/10/2019

Advocates are hoping that a recently released report by Minnesota’s Attorney General Office sheds light on sexual assault and how it affects people with disabilities. The Attorney General’s Working Group on Sexual Assault report recommendations are likely to be considered by the 2019 Minnesota Legislature.

The working group was formed by former Attorney General Lori Swanson after the Star Tribune published a series about breakdowns in how the criminal justice system responds to sexual assault reports by adults. The group developed several recommendations to improve law enforcement and prosecutorial responses to sexual assault reports. Those are outlined in the 51-page report.

The report and its recommendations include a focus on people with disabilities, stating "According to U.S. Justice Department data, people with disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate more than three times higher than those without disabilities. Offenders often target people with intellectual disabilities because they believe they may be more easily manipulated and have difficulty testifying later."

The report makes several recommendations for state lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, including requiring all Minnesota law enforcement agencies to have written protocols on sexual assault investigations, and provide funding for law enforcement training. Improved data collection, and changes to victims’ rights statutes are also recommended. One key point is how access to victims’ advocates should be improved.