When the president and the vice president of the United States announce that one in five women is sexually assaulted during their college career, people listen. When a Rolling Stone cover story about a gang rape by a University of Virginia fraternity is discredited, people listen.
Recent studies commissioned by the National Department of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics have demonstrated that the number of sexual assaults on college campuses have been declining steadily.
UTSA, however, contradicts national and local statistics with its reported safety trends, even with a consistent increase in sexual offenses per annum since 2011.
With an on-campus population of 35,000, UTSA is the size of a small city — approximately the population of Schertz; and for a university of its size, the occurrence of sexual assault is incredibly low.
Based on UTSA’s 2014 Annual Security Report alone, the university may be among the safest places in San Antonio, especially considering the city’s 27 percent increase in the last year, noted the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.
“You’re never going to get the level of safety off campus as you are going to get on campus,” said Director of UTSA Communications Christi Fish.
UTSA’s 2014 Annual Security Report conveys a grand total of 13 forcible sexual offenses from 2011 to 2013. The university’s security report, assembled by UTSAPD, examines data from crimes reported to UTSAPD, other law enforcement agencies and non-police that occurred on-campus property, non-campus property and public property in 2011, 2012 and 2013: a total of two sexual offenses in 2011, four in 2014, six in 2013.
Forcible sexual offenses include forcible sexual assault, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling. The genders of the assaulted individuals are not disclosed in the Security Report.
UTSAPD Officer Maranda Tupper said, “The Annual Security Report does a really good job representing where we (UTSAPD) are at and how organized we are in addressing and preventing issues, especially in regards to sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.”
Note that UTSA remains a commuter campus and the majority of students reside in off-campus housing. Although UTSAPD can make arrests throughout Bexar county, UTSAPD resigns its jurisdiction to SAPD at the campus curb-line, meaning that UTSAPD does not patrol at off-campus apartments such as Avalon Place Apartments or the Outpost — locations where forcible assaults have been reported in the past years.
Tupper explained that to heighten the security and safety level of students, the university police officers work closely with the San Antonio Police Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and the surrounding Apartment Association.
Even when considering crime in off-campus apartments, UTSA statistics still elude nationally publicized trends for sexual violence — in both its ascending character or in frequency.
A National Institute of Justice study claimed that one in five women is sexually assaulted during her time in college. A subsequent report commissioned by the Department of Justice refutes the 1 in 5 statistic; rather than 1 woman in 5 being sexually assaulted during her collegiate career, the rate of occurrence is closer to 1 in 40 women — 2.4 percent.
The reports surveyed women ages 18 to 25 years old and who graduated college within four-year periods from multiple universities.
Both President Obama and Vice President Biden cited the startling statistics as part of the “It’s on Us” 2014 White House campaign to curb sexual assaults. Together UTSA and UTSAPD will promote the 2015 White House campaign — “a safer campus for brighter futures prevents sexual violence” — in April, sexual assault awareness month.
Research on the frequency and consequence of sexual assaults as well as situations like — and similar to — the Rolling Stone University scandal has captured media and political attentions, prompting the reassessment and rebranding of sexual assault protocols and outreach programs.
“I think it should be of the upmost importance for women to feel safe on and off-campus,” said Megan-Michelle Moran, UTSA student and founding member of the [email protected]
As cities and colleges evaluate their sexual assault programs, due attention has been given to facilitating comfortable channels for victims to report crimes. The sensitive, illicit nature of the crimes and revealing nature of the report renders sexual crimes difficult to track.
UTSAPD’s website offers a complete list of crime prevention as well as other educational programs and materials and outreach services. UTSA’s Title IX bans sexual violence.
Instances of sexual violence can be reported to UTSA’s Title IX Coordinator Leonard Flaumas as well as UTSAPD, who relay all acts of sexual violence to the Title IX office.
Whether the number of female students who are sexually assaulted is closer to 1 in 5 or 1 in 40, both figures are comprehensively understood as both significant and incomplete. Many — between 50 and 70 percent — of sexually violent crimes go unreported. The Department of Justice claims that rapes and sexual assaults remain among the nation’s most underreported crimes.
UTSA’s Counseling Services and Student Health Services offer confidential reporting. Individuals who have been sexually assaulted and do not wish to — or are contemplating, but not certain whether they wish to — file criminal charges can receive medical attention and support at Methodist Transplant and Specialty Hospital and the Rape Crisis Center.
If after contacting UTSAPD an individual chooses not to file criminal charges, UTSAPD logs the assault as an “incident” rather than an “offense.”
Could UTSA’s low numbers of sexual offenses reflect a low instance of report?
“I don’t think so,” firmly answered Officer Tupper. Tupper, instead, attributed UTSA’s minimal instances of sexual offense in the Security Report to UTSAPD’s effective organization and outreach as well as strong networking with the student community.
The UTSAPD Office evaluates its outreach program by involvement and request, said Tupper.
“I think we are doing everything that every other university is doing and more,” Tupper said. “Where we are (at now) is at a safer community.”