Study shows better reporting
By Zane Sparling
Warning: This article will contain statistics about power-based violence and sexual assault
The number of forcible sexual offenses reported to University sources jumped to 20 in calendar year 2013, up from 13 last year, according to federally-mandated security data published October 1.
University officials said the rate of incidents of rape and sexual harassment had stayed flat, but that the increase meant a growing number of survivors were accessing adjudicative procedures and other resources.
The October 1 report is mandated by the Clery Act, which requires institutions of higher learning to publish crime and fire safety statistics annually.
An additional three cases of sexual assault were disclosed to confidential resources, like Sexual Assault Response Allies. They were referenced in the Clery report but not included in the final tally.
Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said the data did not accurately capture the number of cases of gender-based violence occurring at Willamette, but that the rise in reports was encouraging.
“Two-thirds of women are affected by sexual harassment or sexual assault during their four years in college, but the number that we actually report is very small,” Stout said. “So we want people to know this, that this is a huge problem.”
The University also recorded five incidents of dating violence and six cases of stalking, two new reporting categories that will become standard for the Clery Act next year.
A Nationwide Issue
According to a 2007 Department of Justice study, fewer than five percent of students disclose sexual assault to official sources—like Willamette’s Office of Campus Safety.
University spokesman Adam Torgerson said that the school looks at two anonymous, across-campus surveys for information regarding the rate of sexual penetration without consent occurring at Willamette.
“The incidents have stayed flat, unfortunately,” Torgerson said. “We know that from the big surveys. But the number of reports has gone up, [and] that means people feel more comfortable reporting. And that’s the first step.”
Eight percent of female students reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape, according to a campus life survey conducted by the President’s Working Group on Sexual Assault and Harassment in October of 2013.
If the poll had taken place this year, that percentage would equate to roughly 114 of Willamette’s 1,422 full- and part-time female students, including the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management.
The majority of those respondents said they survived completed rape, not attempted.
One percent of men at Willamette reported experiencing a completed or attempted act of non-consensual sex. That percentage would translate to about twelve male students based on 2014 enrollments.
Transgender students, who made up 0.5 percent of respondents, had the highest rate of attempted or completed rape; 40 percent of transgender students at Willamette reported surviving sexual penetration without consent.
Senior ASWU senator Jerome Sader—who served as a student representative on the Working Group as a junior—said while the data was incomplete, the rise in reports didn’t suggest an increase in incidents.
“There were absolutely more than 13 or 14 cases of sexual assault last year,” Sader said, referring to the Clery data for 2012. “Those numbers don’t tell you how many sexual assaults happened. They tell us how many were reported.”
Gaps in Clery data
Stout, the campus safety director, said Clery Act data only accounts for criminal incidents that occur on, near or adjacent to University property.
Willamette’s reporting area includes Zena Farm and McCulloch Stadium, (as well as the entirety of Bush Park), but extends only onto the adjacent street and the sidewalk on its opposite side for most campus properties.
“Clery shows calendar [year] stuff that happens on or very near campus. But things can happen when you’re out on study abroad of at a conference, and [Clery] won’t capture those,” Torgerson said.
At the same time, Clery Act data only shows that a Title IX report has been filed, without indicating what further steps were taken by the survivor, or administrators.
Stout said students should be aware of the many reasons why survivors of sexual violence choose not to report to an official source.
“People don’t report because of the stigma of reporting, the fear of reporting, the guilt of reporting, the embarrassment of reporting,” Stout said.
“But if someone were to read the report and think that there were only 20 students, in an entire calendar year, who were sexually assaulted—they would be grossly wrong.”