Since Feb. 25, six rapes have been reported in the crime log, with three reported to public safety on March 27. Up until Feb. 25, that number had remained at one rape reported all year, on Dec. 19. The total number of sexual assaults which have been reported is 13 for the year as of Wednesday. Public safety’s 2017-2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report indicates that the total number of rapes reported in 2016 was seven, eight in 2015 and six in 2014.
According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual assault includes all forms of “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” Rape and indecent assault are two forms.
An indecent assault is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an offensive sexual act or series of acts exclusive of rape committed against another person without consent.” The Department of Justice defines rape as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Between Aug. 18, 2017, to Nov. 9, two sexual assaults were reported in the crime log. Between Nov. 10 and Dec. 19, five incidents of sexual assault were reported: three sexual assaults, one rape and one indecent assault.
“I think it is a positive sign that we are seeing an increase in reporting here on campus because that means more people in our community are finding out about their options and getting access to the resources and support they may need,” Educational Equity Coordinator Jessica Brown wrote in an email.
The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network reports that at least one in five females on college campuses experience sexual assault. Additionally, only 20 percent of female student victims report the incident to law enforcement.
Chief of Police Jim Meyer said that the three rapes in the crime log reported on March 27 appeared consecutively because Brown passed the reports onto public safety at the same time.
“Three reports came into her,” either from the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Website or in person, but they may not have been all reported at the same time to Brown, he said. He added that he is glad to see that people are becoming more comfortable reporting.
“I can remember years when we had one [rape reported] or two or none. I applaud people for filing reports,” he said. He also emphasized the importance of the getting the SASH resource guide to sexual assault victims. The guide outlines for the complainants options for moving forward with their report and getting any support they may need.
President Alison Byerly said the amount of reports were noted to her by Vice President of Campus Life and Dean of Students Annette Diorio as an unusual number. However, unusual, she said, doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in incidents occurring.
“It was mentioned to me by Vice President Diorio that Jessica Brown had seen an increase in reports recently and one can never be sure how many of that is an increase in recent incidences…without knowing details, or sometimes increased visibility to the issues sometimes encourages people to come forward that would not have come forward otherwise,” Byerly said.
“When we keep these nationwide statistics in mind, and acknowledging that sexual assaults are historically under-reported, I am glad to see people coming forward for support on Lafayette’s campus,” she added.
Diorio additionally said that while the college has taken note of the increased reporting, it has not directly led to an increased concern about the issue.
“We are concerned about every and any claim of sexual misconduct. It is not clear to us whether the number of reported cases reflects a change in this activity or a greater willingness to report the incidents, as a result of additional educational efforts on campus coupled with the national energy behind the #MeToo movement,” Diorio wrote in an email.
In regards to these recent reports, Brown said the college takes all reports received very seriously.
“Every time the college receives a report of sexual misconduct, including rape, the college reaches out to the complainant, if known, to discuss all of the options available, one of which is internal investigation,” Brown wrote.
Due to legal and privacy issues, Brown cannot discuss any cases that are possibly being internally investigated by the college. However, in general, Brown said victims have the option to request a criminal investigation from the police, an internal investigation from the college for violation of college conduct policies, or to requisition not to proceed with any investigation at all.
Additionally, Brown said the college is always looking for ways to increase education about sexual violence on campus and discuss how to promote a culture where such behaviors are unacceptable.
“To that end, I’d love the input from members of the Lafayette community about ways to spread awareness about sexual violence,” Brown wrote.
Diorio agrees that more work needs to be done and that Lafayette needs to continue to develop new ways to address sexual assault on campus.
“Unfortunately, I do not think any college in the country, or for that matter any organization in the country, has come upon a successful plan to eliminate sexual misconduct. What we do have are evolving strategies that couple educational efforts with disciplinary consequences,” Diorio wrote.
“While the educational efforts are successful to a point (students retain information about the definitions of consent, etc.) communication and culture still play a large part in the way students put that knowledge into practice. We will continue to focus on this issue,” she added.