Obama calls for assault commission

One-in-five women nationally are victims of sex assault on campus, report says.

New numbers released by the White House last week reveal a startling frequency of sexual assault on today’s college campuses and show that Temple’s own annual reports fall grossly short of national statistics.

A report issued last Wednesday, Jan. 22, by the White House Council on Women and Girls confirmed long-held national numbers, saying that one-in-five women on college campuses are sexually assaulted.  Those numbers fall short of Temple’s own statistics, which reported 13 sexual assaults in 2012, according to university crime logs.

The discrepancy highlights what campus officials have said for years is an issue of underreporting. With more than 25,000 undergraduate students and a 51 to 49 percent female to male ratio, Temple’s annual reports don’t add up.

The problem, administrators say, is that victims often don’t report the crime.

“Sex offenses have always been an underreported crime,” said Acting Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone. “Being a victim of a sex offense is traumatic in many, many ways.  Our goal is to reduce risks and encourage reporting so we can get the victim all the support needed and the offender the consequences deserved for committing such a horrible act.”

Leone said numbers appear to have increased in 2013, but it’s hard to tell if that’s due to more consistent reporting or higher frequency of the crime.

“It’s hard to quantify if it is related to more reporting, actual incidents increasing or a combination of both,” Leone said said.

There were 17 sexual assaults reported within Campus Safety Services catchment area in 2013, according to crime logs.

University officials say they have always been proactive in encouraging reporting these assaults and have stepped up efforts in recent years to coordinate efforts. Both Campus Safety Services and Student Code of Conduct handle separate processes related to assault and efforts have been undertaken in recent years to improve coordination of the two.

“We have a coordinated effort with University Housing, Wellness Resource Center and Tuttleman Counseling Services in encouraging reporting of any sex offense,” Leone said. “Also, we are working together toward ways to increase risk reduction campaigns involving sex offenses.”

The study isn’t being taken lightly at the White House, either. President Obama announced late last week the establishment of a White House task force to protect students from sexual assault.

The task force, the White House said, is intended both as an educational apparatus and a watchdog. Along with providing information on assault prevention to campuses, the group will also ensure schools are complying with federal law in both their handling and reporting of sexual assaults on campus.

Ali Watkins can be reached at allison.watkins@temple.edu or on Twitter @AliMarieWatkins.

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