GW’s crime log now differentiates reports of sexual abuses from sexual assaults, University Police Department Chief RaShall Brackney confirmed last week.
Twelve crimes reported to UPD since April have been labeled as sexual assaults — the first time that classification has been used since 2011. UPD started listing sexual crimes differently in the spring to provide a “more accurate description” of crimes on campus, Brackney said.
“GWPD routinely reviews and makes enhancements to public documents such as the annual security report and the department’s crime log to provide clear and concise information to the public,” Brackney said.
A sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act or behavior to which a person has not given consent. A sexual abuse takes place when someone in a position of power or authority takes advantage of the other person in a sexual manner or activity, Brackney said.
Twenty-seven sexual assaults and abuses have been reported so far this year — just one report shy of the 28 total sexual abuses reported during all of last year.
Out of the reports in 2016, 15 were considered sexual abuses and 12 were considered sexual assaults. There has also been one attempt to commit sexual abuse reported this year.
As sexual assault prevention and response becomes a more popular national conversation, it’s helpful to add details to related crimes, Brackney said.
“The increased awareness has provided increased opportunities for people who previously may have been afraid to open up about their experiences, a network of individuals, groups and safe spaces to step forward and talk about or report their experiences,” Brackney said.
The University revamped their sexual assault prevention education efforts last year after 80 percent of students said in GW’s first campus climate survey that they didn’t know how to contact the Title IX Office. One-third of the undergraduate students who reported unwanted sexual behavior also said the University’s responses to those cases were inadequate.
A second campus climate survey was distributed last year, but the results of the survey still have not been released about 10 months later.
Rory Muhammad, the Title IX coordinator, said more individuals have reached out to the Title IX office. Reports of sexual assault have increased generally, both at GW and nationally, as the dialogue surrounding sexual violence has grown.
“An increase in our training, outreach and office visibility has led to more individuals contacting our office,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad declined to comment on whether the Title IX office made any changes to reporting or investigating practices and how the Title IX office has increased its resources to accommodate the increase in the number of reports.
Abigail Boyer, the associate executive director of programs for the Clery Center for Security on Campus, said the Clery Act — a law passed in 1990 that requires all universities who receive federal funding to share information about crime on campus — requires universities to give descriptions of crimes but does not dictate which classifications they should use. It’s up to each university to create a policy on how to describe crimes, she said.
“The crime log is designed to be a resource that is easily understood by the community, so using descriptions that the community can understand is always useful,” Boyer said.
GW’s daily crime log includes a description of the crime, the time and location, whether the University is still investigating the incident and the end result of the crime. Last year, the University began listing more specific details about the results of crimes reported in the University’s daily crime log: The log now lists when a person reporting a crime was referred to the Title IX office or when a student committing a crime was referred to the Division of Student Affairs.
Randy Burba, the chief of public safety at Chapman University and the president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said the Clery Act does not require universities to provide every detail of reported crimes, but some choose to provide more information to the public than others.
Burba said the law is meant to give basic information about crimes, but that it gives leeway for the University to decide whether to include additional crime information.
“The spirit of the law is basically to provide people with information on what’s going on,” he said. “The Clery Act has no requirement to provide any additional summary information.”
Jocelyn Jacoby, the co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, said that transparency for crime statistics should direct University leaders to ways to combat sexually violent crimes.
“By the University being more transparent they are taking another step towards addressing the problem of campus sexual assault instead of trying to ignore or hide it,” Jacoby said.
Catherine Moran contributed reporting.