The Department of Justice is launching an investigation into the mishandling of over 80 rape cases that took place within a 3-year time span in Montana. The focus of the investigation is the city of Missoula, which is home to the University of Montana. At least 11 rapes took place on the University's campus.
"The allegations that the University of Montana, the local police department, and the county attorney's office failed to adequately address sexual assaults are very disturbing," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The investigation has been brought to the attention of the Department of Justice as women continually speak out about the prevalence of assaults in their town and state. A large number of rapes have occurred at the University of Montana, sparking outrage and allegations of mishandling of the cases.
"Late last year, the Department became aware of serious concerns that alleged sexual assaults of women, including but not limited to students at the University of Montana, were not being investigated in a prompt and adequate fashion," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said at a news conference.
11 cases of sexual assault at the University of Montana are being investigated for possible misconduct, According to CNN. The assaults all took place within a 2-year time span and involved two University football players. As a result, the school's football coach and athletic director were fired.
Only one case out of 11 has had criminal charges filed, raising scrutiny at the local and national level.
"As to the University, we are investigating whether it responds promptly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campus and has taken the necessary steps to combat sexual violence," Perez said.
Authorities, however, refuse to admit there is a growing problem and instead have reacted with anger at the DOJ investigation. Other cities and states have gone through the exact same investigation, which is to properly ascertain whether local officials are complying with federal procedure.
Police Chief Mark Muir has said that his force is doing all that it can with regards to cases outside the University's jurisdiction, and that his town's ratio of rapes to civilians is on par with the national average.
There is no cause for concern, prosecutor Fred Van Valkenburg told CNN.
"I have no reason to believe [police] violated anyone's rights. We adamantly deny that we have done any such thing and we are deeply disturbed with the allegation that we have done so," Van Valkenburg said. "While we have no choice, given the heavy hand of the federal government, but to cooperate with this investigation … I think it is an overreach by the federal government."