Total sex crimes reported up on area college campuses amid #MeToo movement

Ohio State University. AMANDA WAPLES / OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Ohio State University. AMANDA WAPLES / OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

The total number of sex crimes reported at area universities jumped in 2017 and some experts say its due to increased awareness and the emergence of the #MeToo movement.

Reported sex crimes —including rape, sexual assault and fondling — increased from 180 to 214 among eight area universities, according to annual federally mandated campus crime and safety reports released Monday.

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The federal Clery Act requires colleges to publish annual reports every fall listing crime statistics along with student education and prevention efforts and policies. Each report’s statistics are not comprehensive, though, as they include only crimes that allegedly occurred on campus, not in landlord-owned student housing.

Ohio State University saw the largest jump in reports of sex offenses, going from 86 reported in 2016 to 129 in 2017. OSU officials have downplayed the overall jump in crime reports though, saying that it is due to better education and prevention efforts and an increase in the number of students living on campus.

COLLEGE CRIME REPORTING      
The number of sex crimes, domestic violence and dating violence incidents reported in annual Clery Act reports by area colleges increased from 2016 to 2017.      
 2016 sex crimes2017 sex crimes2016 domestic violence2017 domestic violence2016 dating violence2017 dating violence
University of Dayton21151652
Wright State161501108
Miami University312900177
Wilberforce University200000
Cedarville University120001
Wittenberg81000101
University of Cincinnati151422108
Ohio State8612912262048
       
TOTAL18021415357275
       
Source: Individual college Clery Act reports. Sex crimes include rape, sexual assault and fondling.     

“Safety of students, faculty and staff remains our top priority,” Monica Moll, OSU director of Public Safety, said in a prepared statement. “We continue to hire additional police officers and invest in safety tools to provide proactive policing and security services to campus residents and for major events.”

OSU was the biggest contributor to the jump as most other area four-year institutions saw reports of sex crimes decline last year.

Reports of sex crimes at Wittenberg University increased by eight to 10 between 2016 and 2017 while Cedarville’s reported sex offenses increased from one in 2016 to two last year. Every other school, including the University of Dayton, Wright State University, Miami University, Wilberforce University and the University of Cincinnati saw their reports decrease.

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Cedarville security director Doug Chisholm said it’s possible crimes are going under-reported on campus, but he attributed the school’s low numbers to its rural setting and the fact that it’s conservative and christian. Cedarville’s student handbook prohibits the use of alcohol and drugs and sex between unmarried men and women.

“We have a particular culture on our campus, being a christian school,” he said. “I think some of the students who come to this school have a particular ethic and I think it shows in our crime stats.”

A Central State University spokesman did not return calls seeking the school’s Clery report.

Though the number of sex offense reports overall at Wright State decreased slightly, the number of rapes reported increased from two to nine between 2016 and 2017, the school’s report states. Like Ohio State officials, WSU Clery compliance officer Curtis Liska said believed this was due to increased awareness and education on campus.

Overall increases are also likely the result of a heightened national conversation surrounding sexual assault and harassment right now due to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault and the ongoing investigation into U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, said Ann Brandon, director of prevention at the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

“As we’re having this cultural shift right now, I do think more people are feeling empowered….this national conversation could affect reporting and not necessarily in a negative way,” Brandon said.

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Even with the overall uptick in sex crime reports from area campuses, they are still going far under-reported, said Brandon, who helps conduct Ohio’s campus climate surveys. Only around 14 percent or so of people who are sexually assaulted actually report it, Brandon said.

This year Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s office conducted a survey of the state’s public universities, asking them what could be done to help improve their Clery reporting. Yost, a Republican, is running against Democrat Steve Dettlebach to be the state’s next attorney general.

The survey was released just a day before Clery reports were published and found most schools want more training and assistance in reporting and compiling data, something Wright State’s Liska said is a common desire among campus safety officials.

“It seems like a lot of the institutions are struggling with common issues,” Liska said. “It’s somewhat of a moving target and guidance has shifted in some areas over the last few years.”

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