Does your local university publish a safety report? Ours did this morning. I took the time to review the statistics and was a bit shocked at some of the numbers.
What we know is that the University of Washington has a rough student population of 42,000. Over half consists of women. Not to mention an additional 20,000 in staff and faculty. The safety report releases campus crime statistics, such as incidents of “forcible sexual offenses”. Their criteria for forcible sexual offenses includes “forcible rape.” A now-familiar term which begs back to what is non-forcible rape exactly? But I digress.
Other inclusions are sodomy, forcible fondling, and “sexual assault with an object.” Does that mean ”sexual assault without an object” is excluded? This just so happens to be the most common form of sexual assault.
So now for the numbers. For the year 2011, there were 7 reported cases of “forcible sexual offense” on campus grounds and off campus residential housing areas.
For the previous year, 2010, there were also 7 reported cases.
A parent can look at a safety guide such as this and tell themselves, well this college is pretty safe. I can send my child here and feel good that they are in good hands.
Yet, for professionals in the field we know that this report is a huge problem. Incidents of sexual assault and rape in a population of 42,000 are nowhere near 7.
Perusing the document further you find programs like SafeCampus and Rape Aggression Defense, which all serve purposes. Yet, they can’t make up for the primary weakness here. Victims don’t come to the police, and if they do, what hurdles must be overcome for your assault to show up as a statistic on this report?
A college campus should be an environment where a victim can feel safe enough to come forward. If they don’t, on YOUR CAMPUS, then you’ve got to figure out why. Don’t just present us with this number 7 and expect us to believe the problem is being addressed.
If that 7 was 700 then I would think to myself, this is a place where victims feel safe and are able to report. I would think that there is a real supportive community in place here. That the campus police have been accepted and intergrated into the student consciousness. That would be a SafeCampus.
Yet, colleges administrators don’t want you to see the true numbers on abuse reflected in their safety reports because they NEED that student population of 42,000 to have only 7 reported cases. The number has to stay small enough so that it’s not considered “newsworthy” to the media. When you look at reports such as these, that is the ultimate intent. Protect their reputation. Protect the culture. Assure future tuition-paying parents that this campus is worth their money, as-is.
What we don’t need is the number of the tiny minority of victims who actually report abuse and surmount all of the red tape to be included in this report. What we need is to know what’s going on.
If you want to know what’s going on, then continue looking. The numbers just don’t add up here.