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University of Texas System Police Get Guidelines for Sex Assault Responses

AUSTIN, Texas ― The University of Texas System announced science-based guidelines Tuesday to help police for all 14 campuses better respond to sexual assault victims.

UT System officials said in a statement that the 170-page report detailing the guidelines is a “victim-centered blueprint” to assist the system’s 600-person police force in engaging with and understanding victims, as well as reporting allegations.

The document was developed by UT System police and the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at the flagship UT campus in Austin. The system is among the nation’s largest, with more than 217,000 students.

“Having the opportunity to rely directly on the scientific and academic community to inform police practices is a rare and powerful foundation for action,” said Michael Heidingsfield, UT System police director. “We must publicly acknowledge our moral obligation to understand sexual assault for the life-altering and destructive experience it is, and be champions of those victimized.”

The blueprint teaches police to better understand the magnitude and controversies surrounding the problem of campus sexual assault and the role of officers in responding, UT System officials said. The manual also provides police with science-based information on dealing with trauma, domestic violence and intimate partner violence, and the role that drugs and alcohol can play.

The UT System last August began a $1.7 million comprehensive campus sexual assault study to better assist students and staff on the issue of sexual violence. The study is expected to last several years, system officials said.

Last September, system officials launched an effort known as the UT System Bystander Intervention Initiative to teach college students strategies to deter sexual assaults, suicides and other issues that could affect them.

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