Content warning: Mentions of sexual assault and misconduct.
The University of Michigan’s Division of Public Safety and Security released its 2023 Security and Fire Safety Report over the weekend. This comprehensive report includes statistics on various types of crimes that have occurred on campus in the past year. According to the report, since 2020, there has been an upward trend in the number of crimes reported to DPSS, prompting community members to weigh in and provide their perspectives on campus security.
Campus rape statistics were at 57 reports in 2022, 28 of which included new allegations against former U-M physician Robert Anderson regarding assault that occurred several years prior. Anderson perpetrated decades of sexual abuse against athletes at the University dating back to the 1970s, with new cases still being reported to authorities. The other 29 non-Anderson-related rape cases reported in 2022 mark an increase from 17 in 2021. Stalking and sexual assault reports also increased this past year from 131 reports of sexual assault in 2021 to 145 in 2022, and from 34 reports of stalking in 2021 to 57 in 2022.
Courtney Banks, student senior leader of University Students Against Rape, said those numbers may be lower than the actual number of sex crimes happening on campus. She emphasized the underreporting of sexual violence, which can make statistics like these somewhat unreliable.
“When it comes to numbers in terms of the DPSS reports, I’m always hesitant to say that it necessarily indicates any increase in cases,” Banks said. “A lot of cases of sexual violence go unreported. It’s hard to always look at those numbers in a way that accounts for both an increase in rate of reporting or an increase in rate of cases.”
In an email to The Michigan Daily, Anne Huhman, director of the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, wrote the surge in reporting sex crimes may be related to heightened awareness and conversations about sexual violence on campus and within the community.
“Improving how we prevent and address sexual and gender-based misconduct in our community remains a foremost priority at U-M,” Huhman wrote. “An increase in reports of assault could possibly indicate that we are doing a better job of creating an environment where survivors feel like they can come forward and reach out for support.”
Banks also said the publicity of the Anderson cases may have encouraged more survivors to feel as though they should make reports and that those reports will be taken seriously.
“The Anderson cases sort of changed the way people talked about this,” Banks said. “If people want to report, they should feel comfortable when doing so. That hasn’t always been the case for survivors.”
In an email to The Daily, Melissa Overton, DPSS deputy chief of police, wrote that crime rates have fluctuated nationally since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“Both domestic assaults and dating violence have fluctuated since the pandemic,” Overton wrote. “The American Journal on Emergency Medicine reports that national statistics for domestic assaults increased during the height of COVID-19. We have experienced the same with a slight decrease since campus activity and services resumed.”
On campus, hate crimes rose from three reported in 2021 to seven in 2022, including those with homophobic, antisemitic and xenophobic sentiments. Overton wrote that hate crimes decreased on campus during the pandemic. She wrote that the current numbers are more consistent with the rate of hate crimes reported to DPSS prior to 2020. The Daily was not able to confirm the nature or specfics of the reported hate crimes.
“While we experienced a decrease in hate crimes during COVID-19, current numbers are consistent with what we experienced before the pandemic,” Overton said. “Of the seven hate crimes reported in 2022, bias motivations were race, sexuality and religion, with no acts of physical violence associated with reported hate crimes since 2019, when there were two incidents.”
The report also revealed that there were 16 fires in 2022, with all but two being unintentional, including an incident involving a stuffed animal igniting in a microwave. Theft also saw an increase over the past year from 278 reports of theft in 2021 to 434 in 2022.
Daily Staff Reporter Emma Spring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.