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Report: UCD ranks 5th nationwide in sexual-assault crimes

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From page A1 | July 04, 2014 |

A Washington Post chart of sex crimes on U.S. college campuses recently ranked UC Davis as having the fifth-highest number of forcible sex offenses in recent years, with 60 such incidents reported at the university’s Davis and Sacramento medical center campuses between 2010 and 2012.

Those numbers don’t necessarily come as a surprise to campus officials, who regularly track sex-assault reports each year in compliance with the federal Clery Act, a law that requires schools to disclose crime information on or around their campuses.

“Obviously, any sexual assault is serious, and we’d like the numbers to be as low as possible,” campus spokesman Andy Fell said this week. But comparisons to other college campuses can be misleading, he added, “because people may be collecting numbers in different ways.”

Fell went on to say that the higher numbers “may be a good thing,” as UCD strives to be proactive in encouraging its students to report sex crimes, either directly to police or to the Campus Violence Prevention Program, a component of the Police Department that seeks to increase public safety and heighten awareness of sexual assault and domestic/dating violence.

Wendy Delmendo, the chief compliance officer at UCD whose office compiles the Clery Act numbers, noted that the university also has 800 designated “campus security authorities” — defined as someone with significant responsibility for student activities — to whom students may report an assault, and who are surveyed annually for the Clery report.

Broken down by year, UCD reported 19 sexual assaults in 2010, 24 in 2011 and 17 in 2012, not all of which resulted in an investigation or prosecution. Report numbers for 2013 are expected to be released this fall.

Fell said Davis’ students are taught early on the importance of reporting crimes, with all incoming students — both freshmen and transfers — required to complete a violence intervention and prevention workshop.

In addition, the university has a full-time victim advocate whose services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a part-time advocate recently was added to the campus health system.

“We do work to provide resources to students and let them know what is available to them,” Fell said.

Sex assaults on college campuses, and the schools’ responses to them, have fallen under a nationwide spotlight in recent months, with President Barack Obama decrying a White House report that says while one in five female students are assaulted, only one in eight report it.

In California, an audit of UC Berkeley’s and UCLA’s lax handling of sexual assault complaints prompted UC President Janet Napolitano to announce last month the creation of a 75- to 100-member panel to oversee efforts to address sexual violence across the 10-campus system, while the state Senate has introduced a bill requiring college students to give “affirmed consent” before having sex.

The Washington Post chart included public, private and nonprofit four-year colleges and universities that had at least 1,000 students enrolled in 2012.

Four universities ranked higher than UCD: the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, which reported 84 sex crimes during the three-year period, a spike attributed to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal; Harvard University, 83; the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 64; and the main campus of Ohio State University, 61.

The full chart, along with an analysis of its numbers, can be viewed at http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/local/sex-offenses-on-us-college-campuses/1077.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

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Discussion | 13 comments

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  • AnonJuly 04, 2014 - 10:06 am

    "But comparisons to other college campuses can be misleading, he added, “because people may be collecting numbers in different ways.” Frankly, this sounds more like an excuse than an explanation. My hope is that with such egregious statistics slapping them squarely in the face, UCD will make an honest effort to do some self-reflection, and determine if their are not some ways in which they can improve their programs. Having said that, however, I also recognize that students do have to take personal responsibility for their actions. Students cannot assume Davis is a completely safe town, because there are dangers when students choose to engage in unsafe behavior, e.g getting drunk at a party.

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  • Michael Ann PedoneJuly 04, 2014 - 12:50 pm

    Agreed. 5th in the nation? That's BAD. There's no way to color that positively..... WHY is it so bad?

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  • James W.July 04, 2014 - 2:50 pm

    You both are failing to realize that UCD is just better about reporting. This was in the local news about 10 years ago when there were only a handful of reported cases of sexual assault crimes each year. It turned out that the campus police and city police weren't reporting active cases because they said that investigations had to be completed before being reported. The problem was most accusations or pending investigations often didn't lead anywhere so those were never reported, and then even closed cases weren't being reported because they said that they weren't current anymore. After some prodding, the campus police and Davis PD became much better about reporting all incidents which is why the numbers are so high now. If every other campus did the same then UCD would fall from #5 to much, much lower.

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  • UCD AlumJuly 05, 2014 - 2:24 am

    James, Please stop making excuses. Now that it has been determined that UCD has high numbers it's time to work on what steps can be taken to 1) How this is happening; 2) Who the majority of victims are (1st year, random, etc); 3) When these crimes, or attacks tend to happen. Is there a pattern? 4) Where the crimes / attacks tend to happen? Are they happening at dorms, parties, sporting events, dates, while people are out jogging, or walking to class?; And, 5) WHY? Do we need more security? More eduction about safety and THE CONSEQUENCES. Reading your description about why the numbers "appear" to be high when in your opinion they are not sounds like a cover up attempt, or someone else sticking their head in the ground. It's time for an HONEST discussion about this ongoing problem at UC Davis.

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  • James W.July 05, 2014 - 10:55 am

    Here's some clarification: I am not ignoring that fact that any number of reported sexual assaults, no matter how small, is a horrible thing. I am giving factual information for those who think that UC Davis has an egregious problem compared to other colleges and universities, because it is not actually the fifth worst campus in the nation. The reason that the statistics are much higher at UCD than other campuses is because other campuses are severely underreporting, much like UCD used to do before the issue was brought to light. The Sacramento Bee published an article on 9/24/2000 by Terri Hardy and Matthew Barrows that brought light to the fact that UCD was not reporting sexual crime statistics. They pointed to the fact that UCD reported zero rapes/attempted rapes in 1998. All of the other UC campuses were underreporting as well, but since UCD was highlighted in the article only they seemed to respond through improved action. This caused UCD to be under the microscope for many years and they made significant changes to ensure that crime reporting was accurate. One irony was that the article quoted Jennifer Beeman, then director of the Campus Violence Prevention Program, who attested to the fact that the vast majority of crimes were not reported. Beeman later was found to have artificially inflated the crime statistics from 2005-2007, presumably because she thought it would secure funding for her program, and in turn because she was embezzling funds from the program for personal use. Now, before accusing me of making up excuses for an "epidemic problem" at UCD again go look any of this up, you'll find it all yourself. Furthermore, do you really believe that this top-five list of "rape-happy" universities wouldn't have a single "party school" in it? There is such a plethora of party schools after all, so why are none of them on the list? Because they are grossly underreporting crime statistics, just like UCD used to do. Now, what I will agree with you is that 17 sexual assaults in 2012 is exactly 17 too many, and the royal we should definitely do something to stop it if possible. However, it is inaccurate to say that this is a specific problem unique to UCD simply because the statistics are grossly underreported at a vast majority of other college campuses.

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  • Concerned studentJuly 04, 2014 - 2:12 pm

    This is not good news, but it does look like there has been improvement from 2011-12. In terms of absolute number of offenses, UCD was 4th in 2011 and 14th in 2012 (tied with several school that have the same number of infractions). Additionally, if you look at the rate of reported incidents per 1,000 students in 2012, UCD is 362. Hopefully UCD will focus on prevention to eliminate this problem entirely.

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  • Alan MillerJuly 05, 2014 - 10:06 am

    Are you saying Davis is 5th in the nation by NUMBER, but 362 per capita? Does anyone believe sheer number is the proper measure, if even there were a way to measure such a thing, given different reporting standards, coverup standards, campus cultures, definitions of assault, etc. If this is 362nd per capita, can anyone argue that is not a least a more accurate statistic to use, and therefore the headline is sensational, based on a sensational method of measurement?

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  • Helpful Student (and data cruncher)July 05, 2014 - 3:52 pm

    Alan - look at the link to the data, which is in the Enterprise piece. You can sort by total incidents per year for the last three years (absolute measure), and by per capita for the last year reported (relative measure). An absolute measure is not inherently more right or wrong than a relative one, in terms of representing the issue. It depends on the issue and the perspective of the person using the data. Here, it would have been good journalism to include them both. In the case of harmful negative things such as sexual assault, violent crimes, abusive child labor, etc., one case is one too many, so it is informative and critical to see the absolute numbers. I would say that most people also relate better to numbers than per capita statistics, and this motivates us to change our behavior and advocate for policy to address the problem. Yes, they can be and are used to sensationalize issues. (My advice: Don't take anything you read at face value. Look for more information to put it in context and verify it.) Relative measures help us compare data across situations where population or some other base factor differs. Obviously, these paint UCD in a better light. They give us a sense of expected per capita incidence, as well as the best and worst case across the range. If used alone, they can mask the issue however. If we just saw the per capita numbers, we might not think there is much cause for alarm. However, the absolute numbers tell us we have a problem. In other contexts, relative measures are preferred, such as brands that measure competitiveness based on market share, not total customer numbers. In the issue of water curtailment, many people have brought up the fact that curtailment should be implemented using a gallon-based (absolute) limit rather than a percentage reduction (relative). They say this is because wasteful water users could cut the requisite percentage without harm while low users might not have as much room to reduce.

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  • Alan MillerJuly 06, 2014 - 12:57 am

    That answered a lot of questions I never asked.

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  • The ObserverJuly 04, 2014 - 2:46 pm

    Welcome to the hysteria-of-the-month club. They lower the definition of "sexual assault" to everything that bothers someone, and suddenly it appears to be a "growing problem." This subject will disappear from the media in a few months.

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  • Noreen MazelisJuly 05, 2014 - 11:18 am

    OBSERVER, don't forget the other angle, i.e., the financial one: the more "assault" cases a college or university reports, the better its chances of grabbing a federal grant (taxpayer money) for "education" or the like. Remember: some 10 years ago, UCD told the feds, in a grant application, that the campus was the scene of gross rapine, yet at the same time, UCD reported few to zero sexual "assaults" under the Clery Act.

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  • AlcoholJuly 04, 2014 - 6:55 pm

    How many of these incidents are alcohol related? How many of these incidents resulted in an arrest, charges filed and a conviction? How many are regret sex claims. Those would be morean interesting statistic to look at than the number of allegations.

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  • ML1999July 05, 2014 - 2:18 am

    Top 5? I seriously doubt it. Top 200, maybe. How many of these crimes were at the UCD Medical Center?

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