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NM State University Hosts Conference on Campus Sexual Violence

New Mexico State University hosts its first conference this week to address sexual violence on campus. (
New Mexico State University hosts its first conference this week to address sexual violence on campus. (
October 30, 2017

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- A New Mexico State University conference this week will help campus leaders be better prepared when victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or other disturbing events seek help.

Lauri Millot, executive director of NMSU's campus equity office, said university professionals often have limited training in how to respond to reports of sexual violence or harassment. She said she believes the campus needs a "trauma-informed approach," so administrators know how to appropriately work with people who report an incident.

"The fact is that, you know, this is about respect, this is about power and this is about misusing both of those,” Millot said. "And so, at any point in time, if we have the ability to educate and establish boundaries and establish requirements in terms of behavior, it's a perfect opportunity to do it."

Last year, the NMSU campus in Las Cruces reported an increase in forcible sex offenses over a two-year period, while crime in other categories dropped significantly.

The one-day conference will take place this Thursday, November 2, at Dona Ana Community College's East Mesa campus.

The conference will include two sessions that examine how the campus responds to reports of a sexual crime, and the third will tackle the latest Title Nine changes announced by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos has scrapped federal guidance advocated in the Obama era, and announced that colleges can apply a tougher standard of evidence for sexual abuse than for other civil rights violations.

Millot said when an assault is reported, both sides must be treated impartially.

"That expectation that we increase the level of fairness, I think, is absolutely appropriate,” she said. "Having said that, the fact of the matter is, sexual assaults are occurring, and we have individuals that need support, and we have individuals that need to be held accountable for their behavior."

Education Secretary DeVos had described the Obama administration's system as having too often victimized suspects who turned out to be innocent. The Trump administration's proposed changes to the Title Nine laws are being challenged in the courts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM