Re­ports of rape at Va. Tech dou­ble from2015

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SUNDAY IN VIRGINIA - BY DOMINICKMASTRANGELO The Roanoke Times

BLACKS­BURG— Up­dated cam­pus crime in­ci­dent re­port data show a spike in in­stances of re­ported sex­u­ally vi­o­lent crime at Vir­ginia Tech.

In com­pli­ance with the Jeanne Clery Dis­clo­sure Act, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties na­tion­wide are man­dated to share in­for­ma­tion on yearly crime data with their cam­pus com­mu­ni­ties.

At Tech, the to­tal num­ber of re­ported rapes on or around the Blacks­burg cam­pus dou­bled from six in 2015 to 12 last year.

“I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to find a sim­ple cause for that num­ber,” said Mark Owczarski, a univer­sity spokesman. “That num­ber is a data point. It is a num­ber show­ing the year in which a com­plaint was re­ceived. It is pos­si­ble and un­der­stand­able that a vic­tim might not re­port an in­ci­dent un­til months or years af­ter an in­ci­dent has oc­curred.”

The find­ings come on the heels of a string of years — 2013- 15— in which re­ported in­ci­dents in­volv­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct or as­sault were higher at Tech than the na­tional av­er­age, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled us­ing a U. S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Data­base.

Four re­ported sex as­saults on cam­pus within a week in March prompted Pres­i­dent Tim Sands’ most re­cent pub­lic re­marks re­gard­ing the school’s han­dling of rape on and around cam­pus.

“Although in­creased re­port­ing does not nec­es­sar­ily in­di­cate an in­crease in crime, these re­ports serve to re­mind us that we are not im­mune from crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” that state­ment read.

The school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has placed chang­ing the cul­ture sur­round­ing cam­pus rape near the top of its pri­or­ity list.

“One in­ci­dent is too many,” Owczarski said. “Our over­all ap­proach is a vic­tim- cen­tric one that asks how can we pre­vent it to be­gin with, and if it should oc­cur, do we have an en­vi­ron­ment where vic­tims feel com­fort­able to come for­ward?”

At Radford Univer­sity, re­ported forcible sex of­fenses were down to eight last year from 10 in 2015.

Yet some num­bers of sex­u­ally ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior at the school of about 10,000 stu­dents have in­creased.

In­stances of stalk­ing, for ex­am­ple, rose from one to eight to 29 over the past three years. RU law en­force­ment and school of­fi­cials at­tribute this in­crease to an uptick in re­port­ing and tweaks to fed­eral guidelines re­gard­ing what con­sti­tutes stalk­ing for Clery pur­poses.

When a stu­dent re­ports a po­ten­tial stalk­ing in­ci­dent to the univer­sity, re­gard­less of ac­tion taken, the school is re­quired to count the re­port as an in­stance of emo­tional dis­tress and thus re­port it to Clery, ac­cord­ing to U. S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion guidelines.

At each school, liquor law vi­o­la­tions in­creased slightly from the year prior — 591 at Tech from 542 in 2015 and 235 at Radford from 213 in 2015.

“Our main fo­cus is vi­o­la­tions of the law,” said RU po­lice Chief Dave Un­der­wood. “With Clery, it gives us an­other tool that we use to help us. If we see some­thing like an in­crease in sex as­saults, we know we need to start work­ing on do­ing dif­fer­ent types of pro­grams. We’re not try­ing to ar­rest every­body that we come up with.”

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