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Sexual assault reports spike on campus

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

Recorded cases of on-campus rape have risen 60 percent and domestic violence is up 150 percent, according to the University of Massachusetts’ Annual Security Report for 2016.

The annual report, commonly known as the Clery Report, was released to students via email on Sept. 23 and provides information on safety and security at the University.

In the report’s Criminal Offenses and Crime Statistics section, it states that cases of on-campus rape have risen 60 percent from 10 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, while domestic violence has increased 150 percent from 4 reported cases in 2015 to 10 one year later.

Mary Dettloff, University deputy director at the Office of News and Media Relations, addressed the report after being contacted by The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

“Regarding sexual assaults reported on campus, last year we expanded the use of a confidential form that sexual assault survivors can use to report an assault. Last year was the first year that the University Health Services and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health were both offering the form, which has been used by the Center for Women and Community for many years,” Dettloff said. “The small increase we had in reported sexual assaults is likely directly tied to that expanded outreach through the health center and CCPH.”

She added that “the increase in domestic violence reports is for similar reasons. We are encouraging more people to step forward when they are experiencing it.”

When asked about what policies the university is actively pursuing to combat these rises, Dettloff said that “UMass offers robust prevention and active bystander programming around campus. Additionally, UMPD and other organizations offer many free programs related to relationships, consent and sexual violence.”

Emphasizing that not all survivors are reporting attacks, Dettloff added, “It is imperative that survivors report assaults, so that they can get the support, assistance and care they need.”

Dettloff also highlighted how “UMass offers several options to report an assault and has a dedicated center on campus to work with survivors throughout the process [Center for Women and Community], as well as access to several off-campus resources.”

Becky Lockwood, associate director of Counseling and Rape Crisis Services at the Center for Women & Community (CWC), told the Collegian that the Center “provides free, confidential support to survivors of all genders and their friends and family that have been impacted by relationship violence, sexual violence and/or stalking.”

“CWC Advocates can explain all the options available for support and reporting for members of the campus community and assist survivors with safety planning. Advocates can also provide information regarding the civil and criminal legal system, pregnancy prevention and medical evidence collection,” Lockwood said.

“Advocates can accompany survivors to meetings with the Dean of Students, the police, [the office of] Equal Opportunity & Diversity and their union. CWC provides free short-term counseling, support groups and a 24/7 hotline,” she added

The report also revealed an escalation of burglary, with 18 cases reported in 2016 compared to eight in 2015. Dettloff responded to this rise and contended that “in terms of the burglaries, we had 59 reports in 2012 and feel that even though there was an increase from eight to 18 from 2015 to 2016, we are still seeing those reports decrease as we continue to educate students about the importance of locking their residence hall doors and securing their personal items.”

“On a public campus with a community of more than 35,000 and a significant amount of visitors, unfortunately there exist opportunities for these types of crimes to occur,” Dettloff said, pointing out that “the two people arrested earlier this month for several backpack thefts were not UMass students.”

The University also released its Campus Fire Safety Right To Know Report for 2016, which is published in accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The report details numerous cases of fires caused by “intentional” actions, alongside “unintentional” fires, one of which caused an estimated $10,000-25,000 worth of damage at North Apartment D, 52 Eastman Lane.

When asked whether the number of fires was expected, Amherst Fire Chief W. Tim Nelson said that “the volume of incidents isn’t a surprise and is about where we would figure it to be.”

“Students have great access to campus fire safety information,” he said, referring to a question regarding the amount of fire advice available to UMass students.

However, he stated, “The challenge comes in trying to get them to pay attention to it.  One can have the greatest types of information in voluminous amounts and readily accessible, but if your audience doesn’t feel it’s important to them, they won’t pay attention.”

 

Glenn Houlihan can be reached at ghoulihan@umass.edu.

Editor’s note: The headline of this story was changed from “Sexual assault spikes on campus” for clarification purposes.

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