Republication: Sexual assaults increase

Kelly McGaw, News Editor, November 14, 2008

The following articles are part of a series of articles republished to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Bucknellian’s publication. Read the rest here.

This article eventually won first place in the 2009 Keystone Awards from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Read this article in its original online form here.


Seven cases of sexual assault have been reported on campus since August, according to Chief of Public Safety Jason Friedberg. None of the seven cases have been reported in the published Public Safety Log.

Seven reports in three months represent a large increase over the three reported cases in 2007.

“I would call it more of an increase in reporting, which is what we want,” Friedberg said.

Friedberg said students are becoming more comfortable with Public Safety and are recognizing their venues on campus, including the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), the Sexual Assault Survivor Advocates, as well as an off-campus resource, Susquehanna Valley Women in Transition (SVWIT).

“This year half of those [victims] have come right to Public Safety as soon as they were able to get out of the situation,” Friedberg said.

Tracy Shaynak, interim director of the WRC and Advocate Program coordinator, said reporting was down considerably last year.

The rise in sexual assault reports this semester “may mean we’ve had a rise in incidents, but it definitely means more survivors have been willing and interested to come forward,” Shaynak said.

In the wake of the increase, whether in reports or in incidents, some students remain unaware of the issue.

Lauren Rutter ’09, who is collecting victimization and perpetration data with Associate Professor of psychology Bill Flack in regards to the “hook-up” culture, said, “I had no idea that the reports of sexual assault at Bucknell had dramatically increased this year.”

All public and private universities receiving federal funding are required by law to release criminal statistics in three ways: in an annual report, timely warnings and through the public crime log, according to securityoncampus.org.

This law, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly known as the Clery Act, went into effect in 1990, four years after Clery, a Lehigh University student, was raped and murdered in her dorm.

The University does post crime statistics yearly, but does not print the occurrence of sexual assaults on a weekly basis in the Public Safety log.

“Incidents are to be included [in the public crime log] … but certain limited information may be withheld to protect victim confidentiality, ensure the integrity of ongoing investigations, or to keep a suspect from fleeing,” according to securityoncampus.org.

The law allows for exclusion of details that may compromise victim’s safety.

“As part of the Clery Act … I don’t have to report those [sexual assaults in the log] because it may jeopardize our ability to do the investigation or identify the victim,” Friedberg said.

Shaynak agrees that in the interest of the victim, sexual assault incidents should not be published.

“It would be very easy for a survivor, even though there wouldn’t be specifics, to be very sensitive to the fact that something is in the paper,” she said.

However, the Clery Act states that each report must be published.

“Only the most limited information necessary may be withheld [from the public crime log] and even then it must be released ‘once the adverse effect … is no longer likely to occur,’” according to securityoncampus.org.

When questioned about this Friedberg said, “That’s an interpretation. We just go and amend our previous log.”

One student believes the log should help the campus community become aware of campus incidents.

“I think the assaults should be listed in the Public Safety log in the most anonymous way possible … and with consent from the survivor,” V-Day Bucknell officer Jessica Vooris ’09 said.

Flack, a 1 in 4 researcher, agrees sexual assaults need to be reported.

“The University should be sharing this information publicly somehow, since it reflects an ongoing public health crisis about which people should be aware,” Flack said.

Flack’s research with the 1 in 4 campaign concludes that between 20 and 25 percent of female college students are sexually assaulted. This statistic almost doubles when including unwanted sexual touching.

Based on these statistics it is highly likely “the incidents reported to campus authorities grossly underestimate the numbers reported in scientific surveys,” Flack said.

Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime on college campuses, according to Shaynak.

She agrees there is a disparity between reporting and statistics.

“No matter how many people are coming forward we know there are plenty more who aren’t,” she said.

The definition of sexual assault includes sexual misconduct such as groping, fondling, and for the first time, cyber-crimes.

Friedberg said the expansion of the definition could also account for the increase in incidents.

Vooris believes the publication of sexual offense in the Public Safety log could spark an increase in reporting, instead of hindering it.

“Perhaps if people see that other survivors have reported these things they won’t be so scared to do the same thing,” she said.

Other students agree reporting is necessary, but disagree about the method.

“The Public Safety log is usually swarmed with tripped fire alarms and underage alcohol citations; to include a report of a sexual assault within this list … trivializes the fact that the assault occurred,” said Chrissy Friedlander ’09, co-president of 1 in 4.

Mikaela Mathern ’09, co-president of 1 in 4, said, “having to see their assault posted in The Bucknellian under the Public Safety log can cause a survivor distress.”

On the other hand, Mathern argues, “How can we do anything about it if the student body and the entire community aren’t aware of the issue at large?”

Marissa Calhoun ’10, President of Brothers and Sisters Empowered (BASE), said published reports of sexual assault would remind students to be careful while out.

Friedberg said the opposite.

“I don’t think sexual assaults on campus dictate whether you should be careful or not. There should be a standard level of carefulness when you go out at night.”

Calhoun agrees that it is partially the responsibility of campus members to be more aware of their surroundings.

“We also need to hold Public Safety accountable for incidents such as this,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun “was less than pleased” with Public Safety after accompanying a friend to the office to report a sexual assault last year.

“Public Safety does a very poor job reporting incidents of sexual assault,” she said.

“They … told us that they could not prove the incident because [my friend] did not bare any marks of abuse.”

Friedberg said he disagrees with this account.

“I do not believe this occurred or at least this matter of fact. Public Safety, any police department for that matter, is required to take a report and begin an investigation into a reported offense no matter what ‘signs’ or evidence exists to prove the crime,” he said.

“Basically, I believe the quote is a lie. If it were accurate I would like to speak with the student to begin an investigation into the appropriateness of officer actions if it did occur. All of our conversations are recorded so it would be very easy to review the tape and get an accurate accounting of what occurred.”

In light of recent events, awareness is key. Sexual offenses can and do occur on this campus, Shaynak said.

“It’s really hard to fathom that one Bucknellian could hurt another Bucknellian or disregard another Bucknellian’s wishes to this extent but it happens,” Shaynak said.

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