Understanding Sexual Violence
If you have read the Fall 2016 Semester Sexual Violence Summary, you know how many incidents of sexual violence were reported to have occurred on Tulane's campus. It's hard, though, to understand what these statistics mean: are these high? Low? Can we compare these numbers against other schools? Or to put another way: What do these numbers say about safety at Tulane?
So here's some information to put those numbers in context and illustrate how Tulane is leading the nation in its commitment to addressing sexual violence.
The National Problem
By now, we understand that sexual assault on college campuses is a national problem. One in four undergraduate women and one in five LGBT-identifying undergraduates will experience sexual assault during their time in college, and 85% of victims will know the person who assaulted them. Yet only 15% of acquaintance-perpetrated sexual assault is reported. But other forms of sexual violence occur as well. Over 20% of college students reported being abused by their intimate partner. Further, college students are twice as likely to be stalked as the general public, and they are more likely to experience cyberstalking.
It's not just that this is a crisis: it's a silent crisis. The overwhelming majority of victims will not come forward to report their experience, not to the police--and not to their colleges.
It's not difficult to guess why many victims don't report: thinking no one will believe them. That they blame themself for what happened. Fear of retaliation. Wanting to ignore it, pretend it didn't happen, just moving on. Not wanting to tell anyone.
But the number one reason that students don't report is that they didn't think it was serious enough.
This is one of the motivations behind Tulane's transparency around its semester numbers. We want our community to know that these incidents happen and that we want to know.
How Do We Compare?
Higher reporting rates do not mean that there are more incidents of sexual assault occurring on campus. Low numbers do not mean a school is "more safe" than a higher reporting peer. This summer, the Washington Post analyzed the sexual assault incidents at 1,300 schools as reported in each institution's 2014 Annual Security Report (as mandated by the Clery Act). The Post found 99 schools that had at least 10 reports of rape on their main campuses in 2014, including Tulane. The highest number was 43 sexual assaults, from Brown and the University of Connecticut.
Remember. One in four female undergraduates will experience sexual assault. Until reporting rates reflect that statistic, a number is not too high. Higher numbers reflect progress; higher numbers reflect more students knowing that they are not alone.
Moreover, the Clery reportable numbers do not tell the whole story of sexual violence in a university's community. More Tulane students live off campus than in residence halls; any incidents of sexual violence that occur in off-campus apartments would not be included in our Clery numbers. That's why at Tulane, we have a community event each fall called Shifting the Paradigm where we publicly present all reports that were received in the past year, not just what we are required to report by the Clery Act. The more we talk about sexual violence at Tulane, the better we are at ending sexual violence at Tulane.
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