ST. PAUL — The number of sexual assault cases reported to Minnesota colleges and universities increased for the second straight year in 2017, but less than half were investigated by schools, according to data released in June by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

The 416 cases are the highest reported number since Minnesota colleges and universities started collecting and reporting campus sexual assault statistics to the state in 2015, when the Legislature signed it into law. This year's report came out a few months later than usual due to staff turnover at the state agency, officials said. The 2018 statistics are expected out by the end of the year.

Among 84 postsecondary institutions across the state in the report, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities had the most reported incidents with 93 sexual assault cases reported, followed by St. Olaf College with 37 and Carleton College with 24.

Rape is the most underreported crime in the United States, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. On campus, a 2016 survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men experienced sexual assault while in college and only 7% of students who indicated they had experienced rape reported the incident to school authorities.

While less than half of the total cases were investigated by the institutions, the reasons schools may not investigate sexual assault varies, said Laura Linder-Scholer, campus sexual violence prevention and response coordinator at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Some of those reasons include: the accused assaulter withdraws from the school or the victim doesn't want to pursue the investigation for many reasons like conflicts on class schedule, trauma or the long investigation process.

"Anyone who is a part of this process on any campus can acknowledge it is a long, complex emotionally draining process for everyone involved," said Linder-Scholer. "This is ongoing while students are still taking classes and working to stay integrated in their communities and so you will have complainants who bring forward a complaint and then say this for whatever reason is no longer helpful or healing for me and choose to step away."

Institution NameIncidents Reported to InstitutionInvestigatedReferred for Disciplinary ProcessReported to Law Enforcement
Academy College0000
Adler Graduate School0000
Alexandria Technical & Community College0000
Anoka Technical College<10<10<10<10
Anoka-Ramsey Community College0000
Argosy University/Twin Cities0000
Augsburg University<10<10<10<10
Aveda Institute Minneapolis<10<10<10<10
Bemidji State University<10<10<10<10
Bethany Lutheran College0000
Bethel University<10<10<10<10
Carleton College2415<10<10
Central Lakes College<10<10<10<10
Century College<10<10<10<10
*College of Saint Benedict/St. John's University15<10<10<10
College of St. Scholastica12<10<10<10
Concordia College17<10<10<10
Concordia University-St. Paul0000
Crown College0000
Dakota County Technical College0000
Dunwoody College of Technology<10<10<10<10
Empire Beauty School0000
Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College0000
Gustavus Adolphus College2311<10<10
Hamline University11<10<10<10
Hennepin Technical College<10<10<10<10
Herzing University0000
Hibbing Community College<10<10<10<10
Institute of Production & Recording0000
Inver Hills Community College0000
Itasca Community College0000
Lake Superior College<10<10<10<10
Leech Lake Tribal College0000
Macalester College15<10<10<10
Martin Luther College<10<10<10<10
Mesabi Range College0000
Metropolitan State University0000
Minneapolis Business College0000
Minneapolis College of Art & Design0000
Minneapolis Community & Technical College<10<10<10<10
Minnesota School of Cosmetology0000
Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical<10<10<10<10
Minnesota State Community and Technical College<10<10<10<10
Minnesota State University Moorhead<10<10<10<10
Minnesota State University, Mankato18<10<10<10
Minnesota West Community & Technical College0000
Mitchell Hamline School of Law<10<10<10<10
Model College of Hair Design0000
National American University<10<10<10<10
Normandale Community College0000
North Central University<10<10<10<10
North Hennepin Community College0000
Northland Community & Technical College<10<10<10<10
Northwest Technical College0000
Northwestern Health Sciences University0000
Oak Hills Christian College<10<10<10<10
PCI Academy0000
Pine Technical & Community College0000
Presentation College0000
Rainy River Community College0000
Rasmussen College<10<10<10<10
Ridgewater College0000
Riverland Community College0000
Rochester Community and Technical College<10<10<10<10
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota<10<10<10<10
Saint Paul College<10<10<10<10
South Central College0000
Southwest Minnesota State University<10<10<10<10
St. Catherine University<10<10<10<10
St. Cloud State University<10<10<10<10
St. Cloud Technical & Community College0000
St. Olaf College37<10<10<10
Summit Academy Opportunities Industrialization Center0000
The Travel Academy0000
United Theological Seminary0000
University of Minnesota Crookston0000
University of Minnesota Duluth19<10<10<10
University of Minnesota Morris12<10<10<10
University of Minnesota Rochester0000
University of Minnesota Twin Cities932323<10
University of Northwestern - St. Paul<10<10<10<10
University of St. Thomas17<10<10<10
Vermilion Community College0000
Winona State University13<10<10<10
State Total41616813066
Source: Minnesota Office of Higher Education.    
1. When "<10" is displayed, the data is suppressed to protect student identity.   

At St. Olaf, 29 out of 37 reported assaulted were not investigated because victims did not want to participate.

Kari Hohn, that college's Title IX coordinator, attributes that to the daunting investigation process, which can take up to two-thirds of a semester to conclude.

Title IX is the federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in education and requires campus officials, when alerted of sexual assault and harassment on campus, to investigate.

"They say, 'I'm really not ready for that right now,'" Hohn said. "That's a case that would fall into that category where the reporting student or the victim is declining to participate in the investigation process at that time."

In Minnesota, colleges and universities are not required to submit reasons for not investigating to the state. Some schools choose to explain the situation further when submitting the annual data, but giving that information is arbitrary, Linder-Scholer said.

"My suspicion would be that there is the ability to dismiss or otherwise not pursue an investigation where the report is just not facially plausible or worthy of undertaking," said Adam Johnson, a Title IX defense attorney in Minneapolis. "[It's] just like the police can take in a report from somebody and not pursue it because they don't believe that it's warranted or merited."

'Incredibly difficult to come forward'

Abby Honold, a University of Minnesota graduate and rape survivor, said she understands why many victims don't report. Honold was a junior when she was raped by a fellow student in November 2014. Daniel Drill-Mellum pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to six years in prison in 2016.

She said speaking out about what happened to her was "an incredibly painful transition."

"It was incredibly difficult to come forward," said Honold, "and while I always tried to pretend that it was easier than it was, I really felt for about a year afterward that I had ruined my life by coming forward."

She said when she was going through reporting and investigations, she feared she would be doubted while she relived "the worst thing that had ever happened" to her.

"Reporting is traumatizing for many," Honold said. "If I didn't know that my rapist had so many other victims, I probably would have given up."

Honold first reported the assault to the Minneapolis Police Department, which investigated but the Hennepin County Attorney's Office declined to press criminal charges. Prosecutors based that decision largely on a phone call recorded by a friend of Drill-Mellum during which Honold allegedly admits to having consensual sex with him, according to the police records. In the phone call, the friend mumbled the question "so it was consensual sex, right?" and Honold thought he asked her "it was actual sex" and she said yes.

She also reported the assault to the university's Title IX office and the case was investigated by then-University of Minnesota police officer Kevin Randolph. Randolph used a warrant to get records from the university investigation.

Honold said that collaboration between law enforcement and the school helped not only the case but Randolph's understanding of what had happened while investigating.

But collaborations like in Honold's case don't — and many times can't — always happen, said Linder-Scholer. Because of the privacy of student educational records, schools can't share information on students' educational records other than a victim's own. So, when a victim reports to school and law enforcement, not all information from the school's investigation can be transferred to police.

In 2017, less than 16% of campus sexual assault incidents reported to Minnesota schools were also reported to law enforcement.

This story originally appeared at: