The latest Annual Security Report showed that nearly seventy percent of the California State Universities (CSU) had more than 10 reports of sexual crimes on their main campus in 2017 — with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and CSU East Bay tied for second highest annual total.

Total sexual assaults, which includes rape, incest, fondling and statutory rape, increased by more than 50 percent from 2015 to 2017 at Cal Poly. The upward trend in reports, however, can be attributed to an increase in educational efforts on sexual assault and reporting, University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email.

In the past three years, Safer also saw a 45 percent increase in students, faculty or staff utilizing the Safer Crisis and Advocacy services, according to the latest 2016 through 2017 annual report. Of the 77 sexual assault or rape survivors who received services at Safer, 44 reported to Title IX.

“Advocacy and prevention work is aimed at empowering the victim/survivor to make their own informed decisions about their options by working with a state-certified sexual assault and domestic violence advocate,” Lazier wrote.

While these numbers may seem high, the number of sexual assaults that happen on college campuses is actually a lot higher.

The numbers reported in the Annual Security Report only represent 20 percent of victims of sexual crimes at the college level.

“There are a number of reasons why victims/survivors do not report, such as fear of retaliation or further violence, fear of not being believed, or seeing it as a personal matter, to name just a few,” Lazier wrote.

If nationally only one if every five college women report their assault, then Cal Poly’s rate of sexual crime in 2017 can be estimated more along the lines of 145 college women or less, depending on how many males also reported.

Estimating the number of incidents that occur on college campuses can also be challenging since people who commit assault are more likely to do it more than once.

A 2002 study showed that 63.3 percent of men at a single university who self-reported committing rape, also admitted to committing repeat rapes.  

High profile sexual assault cases, such as Stanford University student Brock Turner who in 2015 received a six month sentence, for which he only served three due to overcrowding, for sexually assaulting an unconscious women behind a dumpster, goes to show that for victims seeking justice the process can be grueling and sometimes not lead to the outcome they were hoping for.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), perpetrators are less likely to go to jail or prison for sexual violence than for crimes such as robbery or battery and that for every 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.

The first step in changing how sexual crimes are addressed is to create policies and procedures consistent at the college level with state and federal law, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) wrote in the report Campus Sexual Assault: Suggested Policies and Procedures.

Creating easy to understand and consistent policies across campus for what constitutes sexual crimes, how to report sexual crimes and consequences will help to improve the overall culture when it comes to sexual crimes, the AAUP wrote.

However, most important to changing the campus climate when it comes to sexual crimes and consequences is to encourage more victims to come forward.

“Given the widespread underreporting of sexual assault, reporting should be facilitated as much as possible— for example, by providing for direct reporting by name, confidential reporting, and anonymous reporting,” AAUP wrote.

For victims of sexual assault or violence on campus thinking of coming forward can partner with a campus advocate at Safer to look at reporting options and create a confidential plan directly with another survivor that is best tailored to their needs, Lazier wrote.

A Safer advocate is available by making an appointment during regular business hours or 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Fridays. The Respect, Inspire, Support, Empower (RISE) Crisis line is also available 24-hours to provide confidential support and referrals for victims of sexual assault and partner violence.

If you need help or someone you know needs help here are confidential resources:

  • Cal Poly Counseling Center: 805-756-1211
    • Building 27, Room 135
  • RISE: 24-hour crisis line, 855-886-7473
    • 51 Zaca Lane #100 San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 (off-campus)
  • SAFER: 805-756-2282
    • Program location: University Union, building 65, room 217
    • Crisis Advocacy Services Location: Health Center, building 27, room 184

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