Agreement Concludes a Two-Year Federal Investigation into Sexual Assault and Gender Discrimination in Montana

In 2012, the U.S. DoJ began investigating in Missoula, the county solicitor’s office and the University of Montana with regards to possible Title IX violations in their handling of sexual assault reports. It found signs of gender based discrimination in the cases processed by the county’s office, alleging a lack of adequate training for sexual assault cases, low-priority assignations for them, disrespectful treatment of victims, and a lack of providing support for said victims.

The Attorney for Missoula, Fred Van Valkenburg, filed suit in response – claiming the DOJ had an absence of jurisdiction over the office. The ongoing conflict ended Tuesday with an agreement between the two parties that asks Van Valkenburg to end the lawsuit.

As part of the agreement, the Montana AG’s office will be overseeing the evolution and application of new procedures and standards for the county. That office will also review any sex assault cases the Missoula office chooses not to prosecute. In addition, a former sexual crimes prosecutor will be hired to advise the county office for the purposes of training and recommendations aimed at the newly updated procedures.

The probe examined over 350 reports from between 2008 to 2012 and found, in some instances, women were encouraged to believe themselves responsible for the assaults and some reports were not thoroughly investigated properly.

Last year, the university and the city and police department of Missoula reached separate settlements and U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter has said that the response to sex assaults has improved since that time.