Press Release: Erin Murphy pushing for statewide response to improve handling of sexual assault cases

ST. PAUL, MN - Today, Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-endorsed candidate for governor, and Rep. Erin Maye-Quade, DFL-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor, are pushing for improved handling of sexual assault cases by law enforcement after an investigative report by the Star Tribune found systemic problems. Murphy proposed a statewide task force to audit sex crimes investigations, new efforts to center the voices of survivors in the process, and other measures to address barriers that are keeping women from reporting sexual assault and rape, and preventing justice from being served.

“We have a systemic crisis in Minnesota that requires all of us to take action and deliver justice for survivors,” said Rep. Erin Murphy. “The women who shared their stories in the Star Tribune article and the thousands of unnamed individuals like them deserve better. Our law enforcement agencies, our justice system, and our leaders must commit to stronger investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of these violent crimes.”

“Women who are the victims of rape and sexual assault should have confidence that they will be believed, that their case will be opened, investigated and aggressively pursued,” said Representative Erin Maye-Quade. “The recommendations we’re making today are important steps toward justice and healing for survivors.”

"The survivors who are breaking the silence right now are acting with immense courage,” said Sarah Super, Founder of Break the Silence, a survivor and advocate. “These are true leaders in our community - the ones who will allow other survivors to follow. We need elected officials who will stand with us and demand action."

The Star Tribune report revealed a systemic crisis in the manner law enforcement investigates sexual assaults and other sex offenses. Persistent barriers prevent women from reporting sexual assault, keep rapists on the streets, and stop justice from being served. Of thousands of cases studied by the Star Tribune, only seven percent of rape cases resulted in a conviction. Murphy is calling for a series of measures to address systemic failures that are preventing justice for survivors of sexual assault.

Erin Murphy is proposing a series of measures as part of a statewide response:

Establish a statewide task force to audit sex crimes investigations: Direct the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to develop a statewide task force of survivors advocates, retired investigators and experts, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials to audit the investigations of sexual offenses in every corner of the state and compile a series of actionable sexual assault response standards.  

Center survivors and expand victims services: Expand the role and mandate of the Office of Victims of Crime in the Department of Public Safety to ensure that sexual assault victims are always put first in the process, not just to seek justice, but to heal after trauma.  

Ensure that investigators are properly trained and using best practices: Work with law enforcement officials to require that detectives and others that investigate sex crimes are specially trained to do so. Currently, they are not required to have this training. In addition, require that each Minnesota law enforcement agency has a written policy governing the response and investigation of sexual assault investigation, which is the longstanding requirement for domestic violence cases.

Assign an investigator to every complaint, just like we do with homicides: Work with law enforcement officials and provide resources to ensure that in Minnesota, an investigator is assigned to every rape case, just like we do with homicides.

Improve Minnesota’s rape kit test law and require law enforcement to test every kit, with the victim’s consent: Provide needed resources and policy change to ensure all rape kits are tested when the victim consents. In 2015 the legislature mandated a survey of untested rape kits after finding thousands sitting untested at police and sheriff’s departments and hospitals, but loopholes and challenges in funding remain.