Ohio col­leges re­port more sex­ual as­saults Im­pact of rolled-back Ti­tle IX guide­lines feared.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Max Filby Staff Writer

Rapes and sex­ual as­saults re­ported on Ohio col­lege cam­puses have in­creased but an ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion fears a roll­back of Ti­tle IX guide­lines from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion could re­verse the rise in re­port­ing.

Last week, area univer­si­ties re­leased their fed­er­ally man­dated cam­pus crime and safety re­ports that list the num­ber of rapes and sex­ual as­saults re­ported at

in­di­vid­ual schools as well as drug and al­co­hol ar­rests, among other crimes. The an­nual re­port — re­quired un­der the fed­eral Clery Act — is not con­sid­ered a com­pre­hen­sive re­view though as it in­cludes only crimes that al­legedly oc­curred on cam­pus.

The re­ports high­light ed­u­ca­tion and preven­tion pro­grams that have grown at many schools in re­cent years. But, that progress could be set back by changes to na­tional guide­lines in how col­leges should han­dle sex­ual as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions, said Becky Perkins, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Ohio Al­liance to End Sex­ual Vi­o­lence.

“We don’t want to see all the good work that’s been done be com­pro­mised by these roll­backs,” Perkins said. “I think they could dis­cour­age sur­vivors from coming forward.”

In Septem­ber, U.S. Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion Betsy DeVos an­nounced that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would be­gin al­low­ing col­leges to use a higher bur­den of proof when it comes to in­ves­ti­gat­ing rape and sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

The Univer­sity of Day­ton’s re­port showed that 16 al­leged rapes re­ported on cam­pus last year com­pared to eight in 2015 and four in 2014.

Sex­ual as­saults gen­er­ally are un­der-re­ported, ad­vo­cates say, so an in­crease in re­port­ing could mean more are oc­cur­ring but it could also mean more vic­tims are com­fort­able coming forward. Of­fi­cials at vir­tu­ally all area univer­si­ties that saw in­creases in the num­ber of sex crime re­ported agreed.

“We be­lieve our in­ter­ven­tion ed­u­ca­tion is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where any­one feels com­fort­able re­port­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence,” UD of­fi­cials said in a pre­pared state­ment. “This en­ables us to sup­port vic­tims and hold ac­count­able those who are re­spon­si­ble.”

Wright State Univer­sity was one of just two area schools that saw a de­cline in the num­ber of rapes it re­ported. The school had two cases re­ported in 2016, down from five in 2016 and 12 in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the WSU re­port. The school de­clined to com­ment for this story.

Mi­ami Univer­sity saw a rise in 2016 with 12 al­leged sex of­fenses, in­clud­ing rape and sex­ual as­sault with an ob­ject, re­ported on cam­pus last year com­pared to just four in 2015 and 10 in 2014.

Like UD of­fi­cials, Mi­ami spokes­woman Claire Wag­ner said that more re­ports don’t nec­es­sar­ily mean more rapes are be­ing com­mit­ted. Im­proved sup­port for sur­vivors of rape and sex­ual as­sault have helped peo­ple to come forward and re­port at Mi­ami, even if the al­leged in­ci­dent oc­curred years be­fore, Wag­ner said.

De­spite what might be bet­ter sup­port for sur­vivors at Mi­ami, there are three fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­way of the school’s han­dling of sex­ual as­sault and rape ac­cu­sa­tions. Mi­ami has the most ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions of any school in the state.

Wit­ten­berg Univer­sity in March was able to close its two years-long fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Wit­ten­berg re­ported a slight rise in rapes last year with four be­ing re­ported in 2016, up from just one in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the school’s re­port.

The Univer­sity of Cincin­nati re­ported five rape cases in in 2016 com­pared to 7 rape or fondling cases in 2015. Some schools, such as UC, have changed the way they record crimes from year to year, mak­ing the data dif­fi­cult to com­pare.

Ohio State Univer­sity saw the largest rise in the num­ber of rape re­ports from 2015 to 2016. OSU saw a jump from 25 rapes re­ported in 2015 to 61 in 2016.

The in­crease in rape, among other crimes, “re­flects the univer­sity’s ef­forts to bet­ter track and in­crease re­port­ing of all crime,” ac­cord­ing to OSU.

“Sex­ual as­sault is a na­tional is­sue across col­lege cam­puses and Ohio State con­tin­ues to strongly fo­cus on in­creased re­port­ing with the goal of con­nect­ing sur­vivors to re­sources,” said Kel­lie Bren­nan, OSU Ti­tle IX com­pli­ance di­rec­tor .

Cen­tral State Univer­sity re­ported two “forcible sex of­fenses,” up from none in 2015. Cedarville Univer­sity was the only area school to re­port no rapes. Cedarville has not re­ported a sin­gle rape in at least the last three years, ac­cord­ing to its re­port.

No re­ports of rapes or sex­ual as­sault on cam­pus does not mean none have ac­tu­ally oc­curred, ex­perts have noted. While it’s pos­si­ble no rapes or sex­ual as­saults could have oc­curred on some smaller cam­puses, it’s “sta­tis­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble” for most area in­sti­tu­tions, Perkins said.

Cedarville vice pres­i­dent of stu­dent life and Chris­tian min­istries though said that the lack of re­ports just shows that Cedarville stu­dents “pur­sue ex­cel­lence.”

Area univer­si­ties re­leased crime re­ports that listed the num­ber of sex­ual as­saults. The re­ports high­light ed­u­ca­tion and preven­tion pro­grams that have grown at many schools in re­cent years.

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