Sexual assault reports in 2015 increase by nearly 200 percent

Monday, October 10, 2016 - 9:27pm

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Infographic by Michelle Phillips

 

The number of sexual assault reports received by the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center increased by nearly 200 percent in 2015, according to the annual University report detailing crimes reported to security personnel.

The Security and Fire Safety Report was released by the Division of Public Safety and Security in September. It encompasses reported crimes related to alcohol and drugs, as well as sexual assault.

Sexual assault reporting increased from 35 reports in 2013 and 44 reports in 2014 to 124 in 2015, a 182 percent increase, according to the report.

Additionally, in 2015, there were 31 reported incidents of intimate partner violence, compared to six and four in 2014 and 2013, respectively. There were also 41 reported incidents of stalking and 25 incidents of sexual harassment, compared to single digit numbers for 2013 and 2014.

All of these incidents were reported prior to the implementation of the University’s new sexual misconduct policy, which went into effect on July 1. The policy now includes gender-based harassment and intimate partner violence as part of sexual misconduct, and changed wording around definition of consent.

According to the policy, gender-based harassment includes harassment “based on actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” Intimate partner violence refers to physical violence, or a threat of physical violence, between individuals in a sexual, dating, spousal, domestic or other intimate relationship.  

In a March interview, SAPAC Director Holly Rider-Milkovich said a main reason for expanding the policy was to ensure the University’s compliance with the Clery Act and Title IX, two federal policies that govern sexual assault reporting and investigations at public universities.

“As we are looking at these numbers going forward, with the new policy in place, we are hopeful that we are going to see an increase in accessing services, an increase in reporting information, especially as we’ve made some changes to the scope of the policy,” Rider-Milkovich said in an interview with the Daily on Monday.

Rider-Milkovich also said on Monday an increase in reports continues to be a goal of SAPAC, and added that she expects reports to continue to rise.

“That significantly increased aggregate number (of reported sexual assaults), really, I think, is the outcome of a lot of concerted effort on the University’s part, on SAPAC’s part, to make ourselves more accessible to students, as well as more awareness and more comfort with seeking services.”

LSA junior Brent Kim is a volunteer in SAPAC’s Networking, Publicity and Activism Volunteer Program, which organizes and promotes SAPAC events and resources on campus. He said he believes the increase in reports is in large part due to the increasing awareness of groups like SAPAC and the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

“I definitely think SAPAC is getting a lot more traction — that and CAPS together,” he said. “My opinion is that young people are getting more riled up about these sorts of issues. They see these sexual assault cases coming up and it’s just unfair. There’s kind of that revolution going on, and people are noticing that, and they feel like they need to speak out.”

Kim also said as students learn more about campus resources, and as these entities are promoted by certain groups like SAPAC, more sexual assault crimes will be reported.

Kinesiology junior Cass Bouse-Eaton is the director of the Sexual Violence Education and Empowerment division of the Panhellenic Peer Educator Program. She said their goal is to allow sorority members to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with sexual assault with one another.

Speaking to the increase in reports, Bouse-Eaton said she thinks it’s the result of increased communication.

“I really think it’s because people are starting to take the issue more seriously within their communities,” she said. “People are talking to each other more, it’s becoming less of a thing of shame. I think that when a survivor sees it as something that is not their fault, and something that is a crime perpetrated against them, they feel more comfortable coming forward and speaking about it, because they see it as an actual issue and not something that they caused to happen to them.”

In addition to an increase in reports of sexual assault, drug law violations referred for disciplinary action on campus property increased from 147 in 2014 to 281 in 2015. Similarly, liquor law violations referred for disciplinary action increased from 1,429 in 2014 to 1,629 in 2015.

While crime reports increased 2015, enrollment last year stayed largely the same and undergraduate enrollment decreased slightly by 0.3 percent.

The University has taken several steps to decrease instances of alcohol and drug violations on campus in recent years, including shortening move-in week for freshmen from four to two days in 2014. The effort had mixed results, as alcohol-related activity declined on-campus but increased off-campus in the first year of the program. Welcome Week has continued to be just two days long in the past two years.

The University also piloted a program last year to alert parents of first-year students if the student commits a violation accompanied by other serious behavior, such as needing medical attention or damaging property. Administrators later explained the University would alert parents only a case-by-case basis.

Other categories in the report, including burglary on and off campus, domestic violence and weapon law arrests, stayed fairly consistent between 2014 and 2015.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify interview dates with Rider-Malkovich.