The Missoula City Council chambers was the scene Friday morning of a presentation by Mayor John Engen and the team involved in preparing an audit required by the Department of Justice as part of the settlement agreement with Missoula. 

Mayor Engen opened the meeting by explaining the purpose of the Missoula County Sexual Assault Safety and Accountability Audit.

"Many of the folks in this room have been working long and hard on dealing with the endemic community problem of sexual assault and how we respond as a community," Engen said. "Today, we will review a report about that response, and our never ending effort to get better from this point forward. This report identifies the things we're doing fairly well, as well as identifying gaps in our response."

Missoula Police Captain Mike Colyer said the audit was the final part of compliance with the Justice Department agreement.

"To date we have we have achieved compliance in all but one categories, and there are 24 categories in the agreement, and in 23 of those we are already at compliance," Colyer said. "The last one is this audit."

Janet Stevens Donahue outlined some of the strengths in Missoula sexual assault response.

"One of the strengths was the excellent variety of sexual assault advocacy services.

"We have SARC, on campus (Student Advocacy Resource Services," Donahue said. "We also have the YWCA and both are available 24/7 for victims of sexual assault. Finally, we have the Crime Victims Advocacy Office that has an advocate specifically located within the police department."

Colyer then detailed several of the gaps that still exist, which include societal myths about sexual assault, inconsistent response to sexual assault among Missoula's primary law enforcement agencies, suspect exams conducted by anyone other than by qualified medical personnel, and information sharing across agencies that can be interrupted, which complicates reporting and the investigative process.

Following the presentation, Engen answered a question from the audience regarding when the Justice Department would acknowledge that Missoula had completed its responsibilities per the agreement signed nearly three years ago.

"We've had ongoing conversations with the Justice Department about Missoula becoming a model community for responding and making change that's long overdue around the country," he said. "I think folks in the Justice Department and folks in this room would agree that lots of other communities our size, if under similar scrutiny would suffer from some of the same problems. We're creating a template on how other communities can respond to these issues."

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