Increase in on-campus sex crimes might signal more reporting

The number of reported on-campus rapes rose from three in 2016 to six in 2017, according to an annual summary of crimes committed on and around Emerson’s campuses.

In 2015, there were zero on-campus rapes reported in the Clery Report. Multiple college officials said the rise in sexual assault or misconduct on campus might signal that reporting sexual assault might be easier than previous years.  

Vice President for Equity and Social Justice Sylvia Spears said for cases of sexual misconduct or assault, the Clery Report serves more as a look at the frequency of reporting of sexual assaults on campus—not a rise in actual instances.

“Increased reports [of sexual assault or rape] are not necessarily a sign that prevalence has increased,” Spears said. “It’s actually a sign that reporting might be just a little bit easier.”

There was one rape reported in 2017 at Kasteel Well, according to the Clery Report on Kasteel Well. Individual Clery Reports are published for Emerson’s Boston campus, the Los Angeles campus and Kasteel Well. About 80-90 students attend Kasteel Well every semester. There have been no reported rapes on the Emerson Los Angeles Campus in the past two years.

“While sometimes people are concerned when they see Clery numbers going up, it’s usually a sign that it’s just getting closer to a more accurate number,” Director and Counselor at the Healing and Advocacy Collective Melanie Matson said.

The college is required under federal law to publish the Clery Compliance Report, which only mentions violations of state and city law—not campus policy. This year the college published the report for the 2017 school year on Oct. 1, the last day to do so under federal law. This year’s report details statistics between the 2015–2017 academic years.

Emerson College Police Department is not immediately notified if an Emerson student goes to the Boston Police Department to report a sex crime. ECPD is later notified of any crime on Emerson’s property or immediately adjacent to campus in April when the Office of Campus Life requests statistics from BPD for Emerson’s Clery Report.

Matson said Clery Reports don’t represent the whole picture of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The Emerson360 Community Climate Survey conducted in 2014 showed one in five students experienced some form of sexual misconduct during their time at Emerson, according to Matson. In 2015, the year after the Emerson360 survey was conducted, there were zero reported rapes on campus and two reported fondling incidents.

“If we compare [Emerson360] to the Clery Report, whether it’s three or six, we can see a very big difference there,” Matson said.

ECPD Chief Robert Smith agreed with Spears and Matson regarding the rise of reported rapes on campus—the spike does not necessarily mean more have occurred.

“Combine recent social movements with our campus resources, people that never reported are now coming forward,” Smith said.

Along with a rise in reported rapes on campus, reported liquor law violations have decreased in the past two academic years, going from 263 reported violations in 2016 to 183 in 2017.

Eric Muurisepp, associate dean for campus life, said reports the Office of Campus Life receives, such as the Clery Report, can help them with preventative training measures or education. However, Muurisepp hesitates to identify any increase or decrease in the Clery Report as a trend.

“We have two data points here, and two data points don’t make a trend,” he said.

Regarding the decrease in liquor law violations, Muurisepp said as freshmen come in and seniors leave, the culture of Emerson can change.

“Every class and every group of students has their own identity,” Muurisepp said. “Some might participate more in alcohol consumption than others.”

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