Annual safety report reflects increase in number of rape cases reported

Allyson Chiu, Assistant Campus Editor

The number of reported rapes on campus increased from three to eight between 2014 and 2015, according to the University’s yearly security report.

The eight reported rapes in 2015 were the biggest increase in the report, said Gloria Graham, deputy chief of police. In six of the eight reported cases, both the survivor and the accused were students, Graham said.

The document, released Saturday, includes statistics on reported crimes, fires and information related to Northwestern’s safety and security efforts. Every year, universities participating in federal student financial assistance programs are required to publish a security report by Oct. 1. Statistics in the report cover the most recent three-year period of reported crimes.

Only two of the reported rape cases have criminal charges filed because they were instances of survivors reporting directly to University Police, Graham said. The other cases were reported to campus security authorities or institutions such as the Center for Awareness, Response and Education and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Office.

“It’s pretty common that people feel more comfortable reporting it to places where they feel they can get the emotional support they need,” Graham said. “They don’t always feel comfortable engaging in the criminal justice system. We fully respect survivor choices on that.”

However, the increase in reported cases may not mean there has been an increase in sexual assaults on campus, Title IX Coordinator Joan Slavin told The Daily in an email.

More people coming forward could be a result of increased awareness about sexual violence as well as survivors and friends of survivors feeling more comfortable reporting incidents to authorities, Slavin said.

According to the report, instances of fondling decreased from four in 2014 to two last year. Fondling is considered a forcible sexual offense, a category that also includes rape.

Some cases noted in the report occurred at least a year prior to 2015 but were reported recently, Graham said.

“I feel really good about what I feel like is a culture change,” she said. “People are becoming more supportive of people who experience sexual violence.”

Despite the increase in reports, student organizations such as Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault and Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators continue encouraging survivors and bystanders to report incidents because there are still many unreported cases, said MARS president Dan Loizzo.

“If someone shot one of your friends, you would go and report that just the same,” the Weinberg senior said. “It’s still a crime and something that shouldn’t be tolerated.”

In addition to reported rape cases, the report noted an increase in the number of alcohol law violations and a decrease in drug law violations. In 2015, there were 426 alcohol referrals on campus, compared to 415 the previous year. For drug referrals, the number decreased from 81 to 77.

Three weapons law violations also occurred in 2015, compared to none in the previous year. The number of on-campus burglaries also increased from 19 to 23. However, nine of the burglaries reported last year were committed by the same offender, Graham said.

The fluctuations are expected and the “changes in both categories are nominal,” said Tara Sullivan, director of the Office of Student Conduct, in an email.

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