According to annual reports, an average of two sexual assaults occur on campus each year, though reports do not tell whole story
According to annual security and safety reports from the past four years, Augustana University reported an average of two on-campus sexual assaults and three on-campus domestic violence cases each year.
However, the reports do not tell the whole story.
The Clery Act of 1990 requires all universities that receive federal funding to publish annual security reports every October 1st.
According to Augustana’s annual security reports, from 2013 to 2016, the university reported nine on-campus sexual assaults and, from 2014 to 2016, ten on-campus instances of domestic violence.
According to Director of Campus Safety Rick Tupper, the Clery Act only requires universities to report on-campus crime, so Augustana’s annual reports do not account for off-campus sexual assaults or off-campus domestic violence cases.
This means the total number of sexual assaults and instances of domestic violence that occur every year may be higher than reported, Tupper said.
“Clery is geographically-based,” Tupper said. “If I report a sexual assault, it has to take place on our campus. We’ll investigate four to six sexual assault cases per semester, but if you go to the annual report, you’ll see two to three, and that’s because of the geography.”
Off-campus housing is defined as all non-university owned houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Theme houses, therefore, are technically on-campus housing.
Tupper said if Campus Safety receives a report of an off-campus sexual assault or instance of domestic violence involving an Augustana student, it is still required to investigate the incident, but it does not report it.
Lindsey Roberts, the main coordinator for the Violence Prevention Office, said sexual assaults and domestic violence occur more often off campus at most universities.
“If you look at cases across the nation, that is trend we have been seeing,” Roberts said. “You rarely see them on campus. When people think about on-campus, they think of their buddy’s house down the street, but that is really not a campus house.”
Another complication offsetting the annual reports is sexual assaults or domestic violence cases that go unreported.
Augustana’s Title IX Coordinator Beth Elam said that though some sexual assaults for domestic violence cases do go unreported, it is difficult—if not impossible—to track exactly how many officially go unreported.
“The numbers are a bit more difficult to track,” Elam said. “That’s a number that would be hard to prove or disprove.”
Elam said that while Clery reports leave out off-campus instances, it functions as a solid baseline. Without Clery, Elam said it would be difficult to know what to report and when.
“Do you count the report that was made?” Elam said. “Do you count whether it was investigated? Do you count it only if someone was charged? Which number do you report? That’s where Clery drew the line. In a sense, Clery gives you a good picture of what’s going on on campus.”
And though off-campus assault and domestic violence cases are not recorded, Elam stressed that students, no matter where the assault occurs, have resources like the Violence Prevention on hand.
Compared to colleges similar in location and size, Augustana’s average sexual assault rate ranks on the higher end.
St. Olaf College, with a student population of around 2,900, reported an average of five sexual assaults from 2013-2015. Briar Cliff University, with a student population of around 1,300, reported an average of one assault over the three-year period.
University of Sioux Falls, with a student population of around 1,300, reported zero sexual assaults. Augustana university, with a population around 2,000 students, reported an average of two assaults.
Tupper said though institutions are required by the Department of Education to report the same criteria, some colleges will inevitably interpret situations differently than others.
Junior Olivia Verdick said she would like to receive more information on sexual assaults besides the Augie Alert emails Campus Safety sends out when an assault is reported.
“I think a lot of things get muffled,” Verdick said. “Of course you don’t want to be living somewhere and feel unsafe and threatened, and I guess that’s the part of Campus Safety and the Administration to be cautious of. But, at the same time, I think the students deserve to be notified more than they are.”
English professor Darcie Rives-East said she believes sexual assaults and reportage issues are a problem on campuses across the nation, not just Augustana. One solution, she suggested, is changing the culture inside and outside of campuses.
“I really do think we need to change the culture from blaming the victim to blaming the culture,” Rives-East said. “The question should be ‘Why is this happening?’ not asking why a person was in a certain position at a certain time.”
Tupper said solving sexual assault begins at educating students on when to step in and act.
“I have not had a case that did not involve alcohol,” Tupper said. “Guys really need to step up and say this is not right and challenge their friends when they hear them talking or making jokes about sexual assault.”