Reports indicate that campus sexual assaults are increasing at an alarmingly rapid rate.
We want the reports to show an increasing number of assaults, because it likely means that assaults aren’t increasing, but that women are finally reporting them.
In 2016 students reported 65 sexual assaults at Utah’s 10 largest universities and colleges. That’s a 12 percent increase from 58 in 2015.
The more startling data point is that more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims do not report being assaulted. Reports estimate 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college. Fewer than 5 percent of women assaulted at the University of Utah reported their assaults.
Brigham Young University students only reported two sexual assaults in a recent report about on-campus assaults. But that report only measured on-campus assaults, and school officials know this number is much lower than the actual number of assaults because it does not reflect assaults in private off-campus housing. More than 60 percent of college rapes occur off campus.
Most universities in Utah conduct more comprehensive climate surveys, which include reports of assaults off campus.
Ten percent of women at Utah State University recently reported that they have received unwanted sexual contact. Only 5 percent filed a formal report. USU has created a Sexual Violence Task Force to help address concerns and improve campus safety.
In Utah Valley, Utah Valley University reported that one in three women and one in seven men experienced sexual misconduct. The UVU survey defined sexual misconduct as “verbal, nonverbal or physical contact of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexual assault, rape, sexual battery [or] sexual coercion.”
Many students at colleges and universities do not know how to file a complaint when they have been sexually assaulted. Most also do not know what type of services are available after such an experience, including counseling, medical care, advocacy services and special accommodations.
This is a failure of leadership, a failure of education and a failure of campus safety. School officials are responsible to create a safe environment for students. Ten, 20 or 30 percent of our university student population cannot be at constant risk of receiving unwelcome sexual contact. It is demeaning, distracting and fearful.
Officials should do all they can to encourage victims of sexual assault to report their assaults. With reporting comes counseling, accountability and education.
The problem won’t go away until we start talking about it.