UC Davis has a higher number of reported sexual assaults than all other UC campuses combined, according to the annual Clery report.
However the large amount of reports may actually be a positive reflection of the student services on campus, said Jeanne Wilson, director of Student Judicial Affairs.
UC Davis has one of the most comprehensive sexual assault prevention programs in the country, due to a well-funded program and expansive services available. Victims are more likely to report and receive help from programs like the Campus Violence Prevention Program, which is not always the case at other campuses, Wilson also said.
“The main reason [the Clery report numbers are so high] is that our confidential reporting system is tied directly to victim services,” Wilson said. “At other campuses they have a website where you can make an anonymous report, but it’s just a number for the Clery. They don’t tie into victim services.“
Every year, universities around the country are required to release the numbers of nine different categories of crime as a result of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. UC Davis reported a total of 69 forcible sexual offences in 2007.
The report, enacted by Congress in 1990, was created after Lehigh University student Jeanne Anne Clery was raped and murdered in the school’s freshman residence hall. Her parents sought legal action when they found that the school had not disclosed 38 other violent crimes in the last three years. They urged Congress to pass a law requiring this information be public.
The effectiveness of these reports varies from school to school, with some schools reporting as low as zero sexual assaults in a year. The reason for this is the strength of the reporting system, said Shauna Stratton, a UC Davis outreach and education coordinator on sexual assault for the Women’s Resource and Research Center.
“CVPP has three full-time employees, whereas some schools only have one,” Stratton said. “We try to help students in every way we can, be it education and outreach or counseling people when they call us in the middle of the night.“
CVPP Director Jennifer Beeman instructed approximately 900 staff members on what their legal responsibilities to student victims would be in the case of a sexual assault.
If a student is sexually assaulted in Davis, he or she has four options of action.
The first is for the student to anonymously report the crime to the CVPP and receive subsequent medical and mental assistance. The student will be notified of his or her rights in their respective case.
The second option follows the standard of proof, meaning if the case has enough evidence to prove sexual assault, the perpetrator will be tried by a court.
The third is for the victim to file for a Title IX procedure, where officials from the CVPP determine if the case is one of sexual harassment or sexual abuse. Should they find the perpetrator a sexual abuser, and is a UC Davis student, they will produce a grievance against the perpetrator.
The fourth option is the criminal process, in which a formal investigation would ensue.
“In all of those options, our goal is to reduce risk and help the victim and protect the victim on the campus community however we can,” Wilson said. “We’re inclusive rather than exclusive.“
Although 12 of the 69 victims reported their assaults to the police instead of CVPP, Wilson said many are reluctant to do this because they worry about the publicity the case may bring.
“A lot of time people are afraid to go to the police,” Wilson said. “We always encourage them to do so, but someone who is in the position of a victim might feel like the case will be public. They worry that the police will talk to all the friends and family and look at all their e-mails. It’s a very personal thing to come forth about.“
In addition to the legal assistance the CVPP and the police department offer, various programs around campus such as the Women’s Resource and Research Center and Counseling and Psychological Services also act as extensions to these services.
“We work really hard for students to feel like it’s okay to report the crime that was committed against them,” said Julienne Ratanasen a staff member of the gender education program. “Because of that visibility in the community, students will ask about the services and hopefully we’ll be able to decrease the amount of sexual assault that happens on this campus.“
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.