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Penn State Sees Increase in Reported Sexual Assaults

by on October 03, 2016 11:14 AM

Reports of rape more than doubled on Penn State's University Park campus, from 15 in 2014 to 31 in 2015, according to the school's recently released annual security report.

That increase, however, could be partly a result of efforts by the university to improve reporting processes and encouraging victims to come forward.

"Any reported sexual assault is a concern," Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers said. "The increase in reported forcible sex offenses from 2014 to 2015, we believe may in part be attributed to increased awareness and better reporting processes at Penn State. The addition of a stand-alone Title IX office, a new Title IX coordinator, a strong bystander intervention program, and other awareness initiatives on campus have contributed to increased education and reporting."

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination and addresses a number of issues, including how universities handle reports of sexual violence.

Like all colleges and universities, Penn State is required to report campus crime statistics under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The university collects crime statistics from Penn State Police as well as other police departments that receive direct reports where Penn State owns or controls property. 

The number of non-campus sex offenses increased as well between 2014 and 2015, from 12 to 20.

"It's always difficult to see the number of reports rise in any given year, but this increase may be a sign that our awareness programs and increased commitment are working," Powers said. "Penn State is committed to expanding educational programs and the resources available to victims. We need to make everyone aware that these behaviors constitute crimes and we are committed to preventing their occurrence."

In 2015, Penn State President Eric Barron committed to implementing 18 recommendations from a task force on addressing campus sexual violence. To date, 10 of those have been completed, including the full-time Title IX office, a new investigative model and full-time investigator for reports of sexual misconduct, a universal hotline for reporting and bystander intervention programs. The other eight recommendations are in the process of being implemented, according to the university.

The security report also found a slight decrease in reports of dating violence, from 13 reports to nine, and an increase in reports of stalking, from nine to 19.

Drug-related arrests on campus decreased from 315 to 203, while alcohol-related arrests increased from 740 to 946.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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