On November 7, 2014 Palm Beach County Victim Services (PBCVS) hosted a highly successful campus Round-up meeting for their SART members and local campus affiliates in efforts to discuss current practices regarding sexual assault on college and university campuses in Palm Beach County. The primary purposes of the round-up were to:
- Educate allied professionals on the status of the current response systems in place;
- Discuss the criminal justice system response;
- Provide information and resources regarding the services offered by PBCVS;
- Identify opportunities for collaboration.
Attended by approximately 50 individuals and co-hosted by the Palm Beach County SART, the Round-up was prompted by what PBCVS sees a need for starting a conversation with campus personnel and other allied professionals. During the meeting, presenters worked to educate the community on how campus response systems work and how that process meshes with the criminal justice system and Title IX requirements. PBCVS is eager to lead the way for better communications between the different agencies and hopes to facilitate the creation of MOU between law enforcement agencies and campuses.
The Round-up resulted in a very energetic conversation. A member of the Special Victims Unit at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spoke and answered a lot of questions from the audience. Hot topics included clarification of how LE investigations proceed, how those investigations differ from campus investigations, the needs of victims and how they can best be served. Emphasizing that it is law enforcement’s job to ensure safety and protect the community, the conversation revealed a number of challenges that the area is facing. These include conflict within academic institutions on how to balance service to survivors, the need for transparency and fears of how reports of sexual violence on campus may impact admissions. Additional challenges include time constraints on completing reports, funding scarcity, questions and frustrations at navigating the legal system and issues regarding the jurisdictions along with boundaries between law enforcement and campus administrators charged with fulfilling the requirements of Title IX .
PBCVS offered a number of resources and ideas on how to move forward. This included a detailed description of their free services, their willingness to assist in the move toward having a unified response including a development of protocols and helping to design what an ideal response is. They also invited participants to attend SART meetings and to join a subcommittee to address campus issues. Finally, PBCVS is researching national best practices for forming campus and law enforcement MOUs. They plan to begin this process with cross-training and expert consultation.