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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene