Jackie Skevin/Staff Writer
It’s widely underreported and often its numbers are distorted. Some estimates even say that it will happen to one in four women, but according to the University’s most recent annual security report, sexual assault numbers have remained low since 2010.
“We only get three to four reports of sexual assault a year. That’s a very low number for a campus of this size,” said Chief of Police Alexander Casas.
However the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network report that 75 percent of the time, the perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows according to Nationwide reports.
Sexual assault on college campuses is a nationwide problem, but not a recent one.
In 1986, Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University freshman, was raped and subsequently murdered in her dorm room. Since then, a landmark federal law originally named the Campus Security Act – now known as the Clery Act – was instituted at thousands of universities to prevent campus victimization.
Categories include criminal homicide, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.
Students do not have to report their crimes right away and many don’t.
Those that are too uncomfortable still have many resources available to them. The Victim Empowerment Program at the Counseling Center helps students who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
“There is a lot guilt and shame associated with it,” said Marianela Fajardo, an advocate and counselor who works there. “Many feel like they did something that caused this to happen and reporting is no walk in the park.”
The Women’s Center also provides women and men with services that will enhance their personal growth..
“Everyone [on campus] is a partner,” Casas said. “It’s a personal decision, but I don’t recommend you keep this quiet,” said Casas. “The reporting process is comprehensive but always carried out with empathy towards the victim. Our role is to corroborate what they’re telling us,” he said.
Physical evidence, witness testimonies and probable cause are all factors that go into the decision. Victims are often taken to the rape treatment center where they are examined by medical professionals. Both sides are given consideration.
The state attorneys office is also consulted because some cases are harder to prove.
If the victim’s testimony is inconsistent with the results after the process is carried out, then the case won’t go to trial.
Students on campus feel differently towards their safety.
“ I feel safe on campus [MMC] during the day but not at night,“ said Jezebel Vinuela, junior marketing major.
William Earp, a junior marketing major said he doesn’t feel very threatened.
“I was in the military and know how to defend myself,” he said. “But I would tell other students who are more defenseless to travel in numbers, watch their alcohol consumption and know their limits and surroundings.”
Crimes reported are sent daily to the University Police Department, which then sends the information to University Technology Services to update the UPD website. A custodian that deals specifically with this act is in the station from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. if students need records.
“The Jeanne Clery Act is important because it forces institutions to put the safety of its community, particularly students, as a priority,” said Casas. “What was a tragedy has turned into a positive legacy for her family and her memory. “