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In sex assaults, colleges must work with law enforcement

The Oct. 6 article “Campus sex assault reports climbing” reflects the growing attention finally being paid to campus sexual assault. But attention alone will not suffice. Colleges must ensure that their administrators, faculty, students, and campus police receive training from experienced sexual assault investigators, review their student conduct systems to ensure thoroughness and fairness, and develop strong working relationships with law enforcement to share potential intelligence while respecting the privacy of students.

The price of failure is high. Police say that the suspect charged with the abduction of Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old University of Virginia student, has now been linked through forensic evidence to the 2009 case of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who was found murdered (“Suspect in student’s disappearance faced two sexual assault allegations,” Daily Briefing, Oct. 3). Jesse Matthew also had been accused of sexual assault at different universities he had attended. Evidently, neither the universities nor law enforcement took action.

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The suspect, Jesse Matthew, is presumed innocent, but if he turns out to be guilty of abduction, or worse, in Graham’s case, then it would appear that the chance to stop him years ago was tragically missed.

For Graham and Harrington, it may be too late. But we owe it to them and others not to let it happen again.

Mai Fernandez

Julie Grohovsky

Shanlon Wu

Washington

Fernandez is executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Grohovsky and Wu are former federal prosecutors who specialized in sexual assault cases.

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