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Crime reports paint an incomplete picture of student safety in Utah

First Published      Last Updated Jul 15 2016 05:54 pm

It's nearly impossible to pinpoint how many students are sexually assaulted on Utah's college campuses every year.

Under the federal Clery Act — which took effect in 1991 to inform students of dangers on campus — institutions that receive federal funding must publicly release data on crimes, including sexual assaults, committed on or near campus. Schools report crimes that occur on campus; noncampus property owned or controlled by a school or an organization officially recognized by the school, such as fraternities and sororities; and public property: parking, sidewalks and roads on or adjacent to campus.

Download a PDF with the past five years of Clery numbers for 10 Utah schools.




That means crimes committed against students in off-campus housing or in nearby places where students socialize, for example, are not captured.

"There is no place for off-campus housing" in the reports, notes Lori McDonald, dean of students at the University of Utah. The Clery report is "useful, but it's not totally comprehensive."

The three women who recently spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune — Mary and Beth, who requested pseudonyms, and Nisha Kavalam — would not be reflected in their schools' Clery reports, though they reported to their schools.

The law isn't "asking for every assault that happens to every student. They need to be more specific," said Elizabeth Bluhm, a victim advocate with the Dove Center, an organization that provides services to victims of sexual assault in St. George. At Dixie State University, she said, "most kids don't live on campus … most parties happen elsewhere."

But even broader Clery reports likely wouldn't paint an accurate picture of how many students are assaulted.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped in their lifetime. But a 2014 Department of Justice report found that 80 percent of rape and sexual assault victimizations of female college students were not reported to police from 1995 to 2013.

Colleges are required to investigate sexual assaults that students formally report, whether they happened within Clery boundaries or not.

At the state's eight public colleges from 2010 to mid-2015, more than 40 students were found responsible and disciplined for sex offenses. Only three were expelled.

Those students attended the U., Southern Utah University and Dixie State.

Fifteen students were suspended for various amounts of time. In many cases, no-contact orders were also put in place. Many disciplined students were put on probation; others received a warning.

Utah's universities declined to publicly release names of students they have penalized for assaults, saying the information would threaten students' privacy. The top-secret proceedings are meant to be educational, they say.

 

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