ISU: 'Supportive and professional' response can drive up sex assault reports

University credits new required training for employees and students to support victims, help combat sexual violence

Vanessa Miller
Published: March 5 2014 | 4:01 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:12 am in

In response to this week’s news that reports of sexual assault are up at Iowa State University, school officials said victims are “more likely to report crimes when they know the response will be timely, compassionate, supportive and professional.”

The university also stressed its new required training for employees and students aimed at supporting victims and combating sexual violence. All ISU employees were required to take online training addressing sexual misconduct starting Dec. 3, and the mandatory training became available for students on Jan. 28.

So far, 82 percent of faculty and staff have completed the mandatory training, and about 40 percent of students have done so, according to Annette Hacker, director of ISU News Service.

A crime statistics report released Tuesday by the Iowa Board of Regents showed sexual assault reports to police increased at Iowa State from nine in 2012 to 13 in 2013. Although ISU officials said crime reports vary from year to year, last year’s sexual assault total was the highest since at least 2004.

On average, ISU gets eight sexual assault reports each year, and last year’s 13 represented just 24 percent of the reports to the Story County Sexual Assault Response Team. More than 75 percent of the total occurred off campus, according to ISU News Service.

Of the 13 that did occur on campus, 12 involved acquaintances and all occurred in residence settings.

ISU officials say many variables can affect crime reporting, including student population, outreach and prevention programs, training, and the availability of support resources. ISU enrollment is up 26 percent since 2004, according to ISU officials.

Among the safety initiatives in place on the ISU campus are free safety escort services, free motorist assist services, surveillance cameras, mass notification systems, prevention programs, annual safety walks, and around-the-clock staff presence in residence halls.

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has been in the news of late after University of Iowa students last month protested their administration’s policies and response to sexual violence. The UI has issued eight “timely warning” emails regarding sexual assaults on or near campus this academic year, and UI President Sally Mason told the student newspaper in February that ending sexual violence on campus is “probably not a realistic goal, just given human nature.”

Mason has since apologized for those remarks and laid out a six-point plan on ways to combat sexual assault. She also held a “listening post” on the topic last week and said her staff already has made strides in addressing student concerns.

In the newly released crime statistics, UI saw a decrease in sexual assault reports – from eight in 2012 to four last year. But Monique DiCarlo, sexual misconduct response coordinator for the UI, this week released statistics showing that her office has seen an increase in reports of sexual misconduct – including everything from rape to non-consensual touching of a sexual nature.

DiCarlo’s office took 33 reports in 2011, 40 reports in 2012 and 45 reports last year. Those reports include both incidents that conform with the criminal definition of sexual assault and those that align with the UI sexual misconduct policy.

The location and identities involved might or might not be known, according to DiCarlo.

“Students may come forward … to review their complaint options, to be linked with a victim advocate or other confidential support resource, or to request a housing or academic accommodation to address safety – without making a complaint,” she said.

Iowa State on Wednesday reported that – in accordance with the federal Clery Act – it has issued six “timely warning” emails this year, including four involving sexual assault.

The ISU Office of Equal Opportunity also has been “more active over the past year in providing face-to-face training” focused on policies, reporting avenues, and the “responsibility to report incidents when people are aware of sexual misconduct.”

“Specially,” according to ISU News Service, “we encourage victims to report such crimes so that offenders can be held accountable for their actions.”

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