Sexual assault reports rise for fourth year

A female student reported she was sexually assaulted Saturday in Strong Hall.

The University Police Department told leaders of the Greek community earlier this month that it was cracking down on underage drinking after four sexual abuses were reported last month, two of which were in Greek housing.

Strong Hall houses only female students affiliated with the Pi Beta Phi and Chi Omega sororities.

The most recent incident, which occurred around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, was referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, according to the UPD crime log. The suspect was an acquaintance of the student, UPD Chief Kevin Hay said.

Sexual assaults reported on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses increased by four cases between 2010 and 2011, according to the University’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released Monday.

Foggy Bottom cases kept steady, with 13 cases reported in 2011 and 12 incidents the previous year, the data showed.

Katherine Goble, president of Chi Omega, did not return request for comment, and Pi Beta Phi’s president, Jessica Payton, did not return request for comment. Marta Cofone, president of the Panhellenic Association, also did not return request for comment.

One more case was reported on the Vern last year, for a total of four incidents. The Vern houses about 180 more students this year – mostly freshmen – and about 680 students overall.

Reports of sexual abuse at GW have steadily increased over the last five years – a trend Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Director of Campus Inclusion Initiatives Tara Pereira said means more students coming forward with cases, and does not necessarily mean an increase in incidents.

“I hope there is a continual increase. Until someone can show me some data to say there are more sexual assaults on this campus, because I don’t believe that’s what’s happening, I believe there are more being reported,” Pereira said.

“We know it doesn’t look pretty, but it means more people are getting help,” she added.

Pereira said it is not uncommon for a victim to report a sexual assault anonymously, because the person may not want his or her name filed in a police report, but that she still meets with the victims and perpetrators following a reported incident.

Pereira began overseeing sexual abuse and harassment policies in July. The University has spent the last two years underscoring the importance of reporting sexual abuses, in line with a national push to increase sexual harassment awareness on college campuses.

Alison Kiss, executive director for the Clery Center For Security on Campus, also said increasing numbers likely indicate that students feel more comfortable coming forward after an incident.

“Sexual offenses are highly underreported, so an increase is not necessarily alarming,” Kiss said. “In many cases, this means that the campus is proactively programming on the topic of sexual assault. If awareness increases, then reporting typically does as well.”

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