With Increased Reported Cases, UW Emphasizes Sexual Assault Reporting, Prevention

Reprinted from an article in the September 14, 2018 University of Wyoming Daily News:

As the University of Wyoming continues to see an increase in the number of reports of sexual assault, UW leaders say more work is needed to both encourage reporting and reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus.

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The UW Police Department (UWPD) received 21 reports of sexual assault in 2017, up from 19 in 2016 and 14 in 2015, according to newly compiled statistics from the university’s 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. Meanwhile, a survey of students in the spring 2018 semester found that 27.1 percent of the 1,913 respondents reported experiencing at least one instance of sexual assault during their time at UW.

In fact, the 2018 Sexual Misconduct Campus Climate Survey showed that only 13.1 percent of those who experienced sexual assault reported it to a UW faculty or staff member, and only 9.9 percent indicated that they had made a complaint or filed a report with the Dean of Students Office or through formal UW reporting mechanisms. That means there’s still a big gap between the number of assaults reported and the number actually committed.

“These numbers are, unfortunately, quite typical for universities across the country,” Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Blackburn says. “Still, they point to the fact that we need to do more to encourage reporting and, more importantly, reduce sexual misconduct and improve the experience of all UW students.”

Blackburn is one of the leaders of UW President Laurie Nichols’ Sexual Misconduct Task Force, launched in February 2017 along with UW’s NO MORE campaign. The group is working to improve campus safety by addressing barriers to reporting; building comprehensive education and training; improving knowledge of, and access to, campus and community resources; engaging men in prevention and supporting male-identified survivors; and addressing the link between alcohol and sexual violence.

The task force, which has developed a five-year strategic plan to improve campus safety, presented a report to the UW Board of Trustees Thursday.

Even before the campus climate survey, UW has been taking steps to encourage reporting and reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct. Those include implementation of the Rave Guardian app by the Associated Students of UW; development of a “safe corridor” campaign to improve lighting and install cameras on campus; improved lighting in the area of War Memorial Stadium, where a reported sexual assault took place last November; a safety panel at the start of the semester for incoming students; and the AWARE bystander intervention program.

For several years, UW has been working to encourage reporting of sexual assault through the UWPD and the STOP Violence Program, which works with the UWPD, the Department of Athletics, Residence Life and Dining Services, the University Counseling Center and other campus units to spread the word about resources available to sexual assault victims.

UW officials work closely with other law enforcement agencies in Albany County, the Albany County Attorney’s Office, Albany County SAFE Project, the Albany County Victim/Witness Coordinator’s Office and others in the community to both prevent sexual violence and help victims. Services available include anonymous reporting, anonymous evidence collection, counseling and advocacy on and off campus, and victim/witness support in criminal proceedings.

UW officials stress that it is up to victims to decide if they want to pursue criminal charges or receive assistance. For example, students who seek help from the STOP Violence Program and the University Counseling Center are given complete confidentiality. Only when victims decide to report cases to police is their specific information obtained by law enforcement agencies.

The numbers in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report compiled by the UWPD do include assaults reported confidentially to units of UW, as mandated by the federal Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, as amended, also known as the Clery Act. The report — which is available at www.uwyo.edu/uwpd/_files/2018securityreport.pdf — also contains information on institutional policies concerning campus safety and security, including sexual assault, drug and alcohol use, and other matters.

More information about sexual assault reporting is available at www.uwyo.edu/reportit, including links to policies and procedures, available resources and an online reporting form.

In addition to the increase in reported sexual assaults in 2017, the university experienced increases in reports of stalking — from eight to 14 — and domestic violence — from seven to 11.

Additionally, citations for drug and alcohol offenses increased in 2017. The number of alcohol cases jumped from 176 to 235, and the number of drug cases rose from 34 to 49.

“While numbers for alcohol and drugs were higher than the preceding two years, they are still not near historic highs,” UWPD Chief Mike Samp says. “Those numbers fluctuate based on available law enforcement staffing, special events held on campus and, in the case of marijuana, the ingestion methods utilized.”

Proactive efforts also are in place at UW for alcohol and substance abuse through the AWARE program.

UW’s 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report includes statistics for the previous three years concerning crimes that occurred on the Laramie campus; in certain off-campus buildings or properties owned or controlled by the university; and on public property within or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus.

Copies may be obtained by writing the University of Wyoming Police Department, 1426 E. Flint, Dept. 3124, 1000 E. University Ave., Laramie, WY 82071; or by calling (307) 766-5179.

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