A nationwide study released Oct. 21 revealed that less than 40 percent of colleges and universities report crime statistics on rapes and sexual assaults according to the provisions of a federal law called the Clery Act.
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report crime on and around their campuses within a certain set of guidelines. The study, which was conducted by the Educational Development Center and the University of Cincinnati, concluded that over 60 percent of institutions do not report campus crimes accurately under these guidelines. The study also concluded that most colleges and universities do not use funding to provide programs that educate men or women about sexual assault.
While numbers are low nationwide, UR officials are confident that they are following the rules. “From my point of view, we are scrupulous,” University Intercessor Kathy Sweetland said of UR’s methods and level of disclosure.
Walter Mauldin, Director of UR Security, agreed. “The university strives very hard to see that we are in compliance with the Clery Act,” he said.
Once a year, Sweetland meets with a senior member of Mauldin’s staff to compare the number of assaults that have been reported to double-check that each assault is counted only once.
Publishing the statistics in question is not always a popular prospect for administrators to contemplate, especially if a campus has experienced an increase in crime.
“The perception is that schools are hesitant to report numbers accurately,” Sweetland said.
She explained that guidelines such as the ones mandated by the Clery Act can be confusing.
However, Sweetland believes that institutions across the nation are doing the best they can.
“Universities are at least attempting to [report statistics] in good faith,” she said.
“Think Safe” is published and distributed annually by UR Security to comply with the Clery Act. This publication gives a thorough definition of sexual harassment and related offenses.
The University Safety Committee helped develop the “Think Safe” campaign several years ago, according to Mauldin. “Think Safe” is a report that contains crime statistics for UR’s campuses and surrounding areas for the previous three years.
According to both Mauldin and Sweetland, discrepancies in the reports published by colleges and universities are sometimes caused by victims’ hesitation to report incidents themselves.
“If there is enough evidence there to make it a credible incident, we do report it,” Mauldin said, explaining that some victims choose to give only demographics and not identity because of embarrassment or relationship issues.
The EDC and University of Cincinnati study found that “underreporting by victims of acquaintance sexual assault is one of the most, if not the most, significant factors in low reporting rates on campuses.” The report also states that 85 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by people the victims know. At UR, Sweetland said, that number rises to about 95 percent.
Sweetland stressed the importance of raising awareness to this statistic in particular, and also of having students be sure that they understand and define sex for themselves.
“People have different reasons for feeling hesitant [about reporting],” she said. “Some aren’t sure about what took place.”
While there are no mandatory sexual assault training or educational programs at UR, security puts on numerous crime prevention presentations each year, according to Mauldin.
Sweetland agreed that while programs are not mandatory, they are not difficult to find or to orchestrate. “There are pros and cons to making training mandatory anyway,” she said.
Some students do feel that more should be done to educate students. “I think that they should offer a seminar to make freshmen aware of what security does and how they could help in different situations,” sophomore Crystal Richards said.
“There should be more preventative action,” graduate student Ayaz Abdulla said. “I think security thinks they’re doing enough, but there’s a lot more that they could be doing.”
Men Against Sexual Assault is a group fighting to prevent sex crimes on campus with an informative Web site and educational programming.
The group formed in the fall of 1997, when Sweetland gathered with four UR faculty members who worked in different ways on rape prevention efforts. Chris Sabis, a Resident Advisor at the time, helped the group make the transition from a faculty to student-led undertaking after he saw their first-ever presentation.
“By providing the population, particularly males, with the necessary information, we feel we can reduce the occurrence of sexual assault,” MASA’s mission statement reads.
For more information, see security’s Web site at www.security.rochester.edu.