ASU creates unit to investigate sexual assaults

Newly released data shows sexual assaults are on the rise at college campuses across the nation. 1 in 4 women report they've had some sort of unwanted sexual contact during their college careers.

Earlier this month an ASU student was assaulted near the Tempe campus. The 18-year-old was walking home alone from a party when she was pulled into a car and groped.

She managed to escape and run to a nearby gas station for help. Police arrested 28-year-old Allen Colbert as a suspect in the case.

The ASU police department has now launched a special victims unit to investigate the cases. SVU's are common in some big city departments, but they are not common with college police departments.

With the launch of the SVU, ASU Police are hoping to make that traumatic process of coming forward and reporting the crime easier for victims.

"We would have anywhere from 10-15 reported sexual assaults per year," said ASU Police Assistant Chief Patrick Foster.

That means on average, more than a dozen students came forward every year, to report that they are victims of sexual or dating violence.

ASU's Police Department adopted a more targeted approach at bringing justice in these cases. Now two female detectives have been assigned to investigate only these types of crimes on campus.

"But also serves to help our investigators approach the investigation from the victim-focused standpoint, because what we want to do is help our victims," said Foster.

The launch of the SVU comes after criticism of ASU in how they handled sexual assault cases.

ASU is one of 55 universities under federal investigation, and several students have previously voiced their disappointment in the way administrators treated them during the complaint process.

"We want to make the criminal justice process as painless as possible, we don't want to be victimized by having the victim tell their story over and over again," said Foster.

He says fear of being judged, the stigma of being sexual assaulted, and the trauma of the investigative process are enough to scare some victims into secrecy.

He's hoping their victim-focused approach will help students tackle those fears and come forward.

"We're looking to bring on a victim advocate, that way they have someone to help them through the entire process," said Foster.

ASU is now one of only four universities in the country with an SVU.