OSU sees increase in reported sexual assaults from 2016 to 2017

Lauren Sluss, News Contributor

Data released by Oregon State University shows that the number of reported sexual assaults on or near campus more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, as published by the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. 

Reported on-campus sexual assaults totaled 19, 16 of which took place in on-campus student housing. This marks a stark increase in data from 2016, with six on-campus total sexual assaults reported, four of which fell into the on-campus student housing category. 

The Annual Security and Fire Safety Report provides information about crimes and fire safety which occurred on the OSU Corvallis campus and nearby. The report is a federal requirement in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, otherwise known as the Clery Act. 

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

A portion of the increase in reported sexual assaults—eight cases—is directly attributed to the way the data is gathered and reported, according to Steve Clark, vice president of University Relations and Marketing. In 2017, OSU adopted the use of a digital recording system, which affected the Clery data. 

“In 2017, crime reporting by the university was consolidated into one comprehensive system, which resulted in three additional cases of rape being reported,” Clark said via email. “As well, in 2017, one reported case involved three separate incidents and resulted in three rapes being reported in the annual report.” 

Clark also noted that two cases in the 2016 data were reported for the first time and were also included in the 2017 annual report. Additionally, all reported 2017 cases involved acquaintances or intimate partner violence. 

Suzy Tannenbaum, chief of OSU Public Safety, clarified that these statistics do not report the outcomes of the individual cases. For example, crimes may be published in the Clery Report in which the suspects were not found guilty of the crime. 

“Our responsibility in this annual report is to report crimes that we are made aware of,” Tannenbaum said via email. 

Beyond the eight cases which can be accounted for the change in reporting, the hike in reports may not necessarily reflect an overall increase in sexual assault, however. According to Judy Neighbours, Director of the OSU Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, the increase may mirror effectiveness in the reporting process. 

“Typically when reporting goes up it is seen as an indication that the system is working better,” Neighbours said via email. “The policies are more transparent and students understand the reporting process better. We usually interpret that as improving a student’s ability to voice their story.”

National studies offer that very few sexual assaults are actually reported to a university or the police. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s research report “The Sexual Victimization of College Women”, fewer than five percent of completed or attempted rapes are reported to law enforcement. 

Tannenbaum believes the increase in reported sexual assaults may lead to a positive trend in years to come. 

“I am hopeful that more survivors are apt to report an incident due to the increased awareness within Oregon State and nationally of sexual misconduct, and due to greater knowledge of the many confidential services, safety and support programs that we provide within the university,” Tannenbaum said in an email.

BACKGROUND ON THE CLERY REPORT 

The Clery Act requires federally-funded universities to annually gather and publicly publish all reported sexual violence which took place on or near campus. Each year, OSU releases its Clery data within the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. The data reflects the reported crimes from the previous year. 

“It contains not only statistics, but also information about current policies, resources and education programs for students and employees at Oregon State University,” Tannenbaum said in an email. 

In addition to sexual assault, the report collects statistics on a wide array of crimes, including murder, hate crimes, robbery and motor vehicle theft. The general location of each crime is also recorded, falling into one of three categories: on-campus, on-campus student housing facility and noncampus. 

On-campus category encompasses any building or property controlled by OSU within the area of campus, including student facilities. The on-campus student housing facility category includes all student dwelling areas, such as student housing facilities and family housing located on campus. Noncampus locations are any building or property which is owned or controlled by a student organization that is officially recognized by OSU, including all fraternity and sorority housing. 

The data collected not only educates students, but also informs OSU security faculty of any changes in behavior which may affect the community, Tannenbaum said. 

“With that data, we consider and implement programs that can mitigate crimes and increase safety within the university’s campuses in Corvallis,” Tannenbaum said via email.

Clark added the data reflects the university’s commitment to transparency and proactiveness in addressing issues, referencing the creation and maintenance of several OSU resources dealing with sexual assault as efforts to improve the safety and support of survivors. 

One of these resources, SARC, provides a confidential space for survivors to have the initial conversations about their experiences with intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault, Neighbours said. 

“We advocate for the needs of the survivors as they identify them. This can include helping with interim support measures, providing emotional support, help with understanding reporting processes to the university and to law enforcement and then assistance through those processes if desired by them,” Neighbours said in an email. 

Survivors are able to visit SARC, located in Plageman Hall, and talk with an advocate without formally reporting the assault to the police or the university. If a student does decide to report, OSU’s Office of Equal Access and Opportunity processes and investigates alleged assaults.  

In addition to SARC, OSU is home to other programs which address and work to prevent sexual misconduct. The Beavers Give a Dam program seeks provides workshops about bystander interaction in order to prevent sexual violence. OSU also takes part in the national It’s On Us campaign, which aims to shift the way in which sexual assault is addressed on campus. 

“I hope that society’s greater awareness of the problems associated with sexual misconduct nationally, as well as Oregon State’s efforts to address sexual misconduct, are granting survivors here at Oregon State a sense of support and safety to report sexual misconduct,” Clark said via email.