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Highest number of sexual assaults reported

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Sexual assault on DePaul’s campus has been a topic of conversation in the past, and that trend will continue this year despite initiatives by the school focusing on sexual and relationship violence prevention. In the 2016 Safety and Security Information Report and Fire Safety Report, which provides the number of sexual assaults and drug offenses from the previous school year, 14 sexual assaults across DePaul’s campuses was reported, the highest number of sexual assaults recent history.

Michaela Clarke, a sophomore, said she does feel safe on campus but hearing the number was shocking.

“It’s ridiculous,” Clarke said. “Hearing that number is shocking especially because I live here. I know it happens, and I don’t want to be desensitized to it, but it’s surprising.”

In 2013, there were no sexual assaults reported, according to the report. The number of sex offenses then rose to 11, with nine occurring on campus and two in public. Of that number, eight sexual assaults, also called sex offenses by DePaul, occurred in residential facilities in Lincoln Park.

This year, the 14 sexual assaults all occurred on DePaul’s campuses — 10 of those occurred in Lincoln Park’s residential facilities, one in the University Center, two on the Loop campus and one in public.

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), college aged women are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than a woman not in college. In total, 11.2 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

Karen Tamburro, Title IX Coordinator, feels that the increase in the number of reports this year is a sign that members of the DePaul community are aware of the reporting process.

“We are aware that even with this increase in number, the Annual Safety and Security Information Report represents only a percentage of incidents that have occurred,” Tamburro said. “Survivors of sexual and relationship violence often hesitate to report incidents because they feel the report may not be taken seriously, and as the Annual Safety and Security Information Report only includes certain incidents of sexual and relationship violence (…) (we) have confidence that the people and services in place at DePaul will support them.”

Clarke pushed back on that and said that she believed that the number of reports represents a portion of the assaults that happen on campus.

“I don’t think the number represents that people know how to report at all, I think it’s that this is happening more,” Clarke said. “Even though it’s good that more people are reporting, there are many who go through this and don’t report at all.”

DePaul has implemented modules and campaigns to help educate students. The AlcoholEdu module, which first year students have to complete, focuses on helping “students to make well-informed decisions and provides some simple strategies to help keep you and your friends safe.”

Along with AlcoholEdu, freshmen have to take Haven, which aims to teach students about about the elements of healthy relationships, the importance of sexual consent and bystander intervention.

Clarke said that the alcohol and sexual assault modules she did last year taught her about consent culture and how to stay safe at DePaul, but those modules weren’t taken seriously by other students and she hasn’t seen anything about sexual assault marketed toward sophomores or upperclassmen. If something were to happen now, she said, she wouldn’t know where to go.

“DePaul is not simply focused on reactive measures to address issues of sexual and relationship violence,” Kate Lower, the alcohol and substance abuse prevention specialist in Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW), said. “The educational efforts are aimed at ensuring that members of the DePaul community will further deepen their knowledge on this issue throughout their time at DePaul.”

HPW’s take care DePaul messaging campaign, which launched in January 2015, is one of the measures used to create a “healthy and safe campus community.” Other initiatives, like the “Consent: don’t make a move without it” campaign aim to increase awareness about the importance of consent.

Clarke believes the alcohol and sexual and relationship violence modules provide helpful information, but thinks continuing to focus on increasing awareness after freshman year is just as important. Clarke suggested a refresher course for all students to help with awareness and make sure all students, survivors of assault or not, know the proper avenues for reporting a sexual assault or for seeking support.

This support, Lower said, can include “advocacy, insight into options, and also connect students to resources, both on and off campus, in a confidential manner.” These efforts are meant to ensure that the DePaul community learns about sexual assaultandconsent,aswellasthewaysto report through the school, while at DePaul.

 

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