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Rape reports increased last academic year but are down this semester

Reports of rape on Ohio University's campus increased in 2016, but police say it might not mean incidents are increasing.

According to data from the university's annual security report, reports increased 60 percent from 2015 to 2016. That increase in reports does not necessarily mean more rapes are happening on OU’s campus — it just means that more rapes are being reported to police.

“We do know that sexual assaults are among the most underreported crimes, so we think this is an increase in reporting rather than an increase in occurrence,” OUPD Chief Andrew Powers said in an email. “This is a trend we saw last year as well.”

OUPD fielded 32 rape reports in 2016, which is an increase from the 20 reports that occurred in 2015, according to OU's annual security report.

The annual reports are based on the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to annually release statistics on crime and security policies. 

The increase in reporting seems to be a national trend, Powers said. The numbers likely indicate a continuation in that trend. 

So far this academic year, there has been one rape reported to OUPD. By this time last year, OUPD had received four reports of rape and seven total reports of sex-related crimes. 

Powers said he did not know why there have been fewer reports so far this academic year.

The number of rape reports to the Athens Police Department has doubled over the past five years, according to APD's 2016 annual report. APD Chief Tom Pyle said the department usually sees an increase in reports when school is in session and during busy weekends such as Homecoming, Halloween or fests.

“I can certainly see the trend,” Pyle said. “I don't think there is enough data to presume any one cause.”

Pyle said the increase in reports could stem from several things. It could be due to more instances of sexual assault, more people willing to come forward than before, encouragement to come forward through Title IX or more education by the university and the Survivor Advocacy Program.

SAP is an OU program with a mission “to provide confidential support and advocacy services to student survivors of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and stalking,” SAP Director Kimberly Castor said in an email. 

SAP is also working to increase student survivors’ access to support and resources with advocacy and empowerment. 

A variety of options is available to students who do not want to file a rape report but still want to receive support.

“If someone does not wish to go through a legal investigation, they can still seek out confidential support services at SAP and/or CPS,” Castor said in an email. “They may also choose to go through the institutions Title IX process even if they do not wish to go through the legal reporting process.”

To keep faculty, staff and students informed, OUPD releases crime alerts to alert people on campus of crimes that could pose a threat.

OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said OUPD follows the Clery Act for distributing timely notifications if there is an ongoing threat to the community. There is also a daily crime log with crimes from the past 60 days available to the general public in their dispatch center in Scott Quad. 

OUPD also does several forms of community outreach so people can interact with police officers and continue to build trust with them. Some events they sponsor include “Coffee with a Cop" and training sessions such as Rape Aggression Defense classes.

“We hope that that our efforts are helping to allow more victims to feel comfortable reporting to us,” Powers said in an email.


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