Sexual crimes increase on campus

Students are reporting sexual crimes at a higher rate than last year. Since school started in August, the University Police Department has received two reports of rapes, one of sexual assault with an object, two of forced sodomy and three of forced fondling.

The totals for the entire fall semester 2000 are: five rape, one forced sodomy and two forced fondling reports, UPD Director Dolores Stafford said. Three rapes were on campus, along with one forced sodomy and one forced fondling, Stafford said. The University does not provide information about off campus crimes in its official statistics.

A larger red flag for University Police are comparisons of the past two calendar years. Since January, students have reported 22 sexual crimes. In all of 2000, UPD received 15 sexual crimes reports, Stafford said, although University statistics only report 10.

Stafford said the numbers may not indicate an increase in crime on campus but rather an increased willingness of students to report them.

“Sexual assault has historically been an under-reported crime. It is not necessarily happening more. It may be that it is just being reported more,” Stafford said.

Stafford said this increased willingness may be a measure of the success of the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation team.

Stafford started the SACC when she arrived at GW in 1992. If a student reports a sexual assault to UPD, he or she can also contact the SACC. A team member will discuss with the student what has happened to them, including medical, emotional and legal issues.

SACC can also be contacted by a survivor without going through UPD. They can be contacted directly or through a designated campus security authority (CSO). Some examples of CSAs are academic advisors, community facilitators and community directors.

Annie Judge from the GW Counseling Center said the under-reporting of sexual assaults is “not exactly a problem – it just presents a variety of concerns when people come here.”

Many of GW’s sexual assaults were reported weeks after they actually occurred, Judge said. It is not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to go through an initial stage of self-blame and embarrassment, which sometimes accounts for the delays, she said.

Judge also cites peer groups as a reason for a survivor’s reluctance to report. If a student is assaulted by an acquaintance, he or she may be concerned about upsetting peers.

The Counseling Center refers some women to the D.C. Rape Crisis Center. Alicia Frasier, a Counseling and Advocacy Assistant at the DCRCC, agreed with many of Judge’s explanations.

Frasier added that a lack of legal action may be another hindrance to the reporting of sexual assaults.

“Sometimes the (district attorney) will just drop the case if they don’t think the evidence is strong enough,” Frasier said.

She also said it is more difficult to prevent a sexual assault on a college campus, and that the number of substance-related sexual assaults is on the rise.

About half of the reported crimes for the past two years occurred on campus, according to UPD reports. According to Student Judicial Services, students found guilty of rape or sexual assault can receive minimum sanctions of a one-year suspension and eviction from their residence hall or University-owned housing.

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