Editor’s note: The article is by Sarah Brubeck of the Valley News, in which it was first published Oct. 4, 2013.
HANOVER, N.H. — Sex assaults on the Dartmouth College campus increased by 60 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to federal filings, but college officials say that number shows an increase in reporting, not necessarily an increase in incidents.
Dartmouth’s latest crime statistics show 24 reported forcible sex offenses in 2012, up from 15 the prior year.
Nationwide, sexual assault often is considered to be an underreported crime, and in regards to Dartmouth, Hanover Police Capt. Frank Moran said the higher figure reported by the college likely is a more accurate reflection of the reality on campus.
Colleges with a higher rate of reported incidents likely are doing a better job at encouraging victims to come forward and report crimes, he said.
“A higher number would be a more realistic reflection of what is going on,” Moran said. “If the numbers are low, I don’t think it’s indicative of no problem. I think then people don’t feel comfortable coming forward to their institution. It’s not indicative of a safe community.”
The sex assaults statistics are part of an annual report filed by colleges and universities across the nation to comply with the Clery Act. The act is named after Jeanne Clery, who was a student at Lehigh University in 1986 when she was raped and murdered in her dorm room. Under the Clery Act, all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs must disclose crime statistics, fire safety and security policies.
At Dartmouth, the sexual assault numbers have fluctuated from 10 reported assaults in 2009 to 22 in 2010 to 15 in 2011 and back up to 24 in 2012.
The reasons behind the fluctuations are unclear to officials.
College spokesman Justin Anderson said when the numbers of sexual assaults go up, he reads that to mean that more people are reporting because he knows the actual number of sexual assaults is higher than what the Clery Report shows.
“When the numbers go up, it’s complicated,” Anderson said. “On the one hand, it’s painful because it means that there are more women and men who have been sexually assaulted. But on the other hand, it means that people are comfortable coming forward and seeking help.”
Comparatively, Dartmouth had more sexual assaults reported per 1,000 students than the University of New Hampshire, University of Vermont and Colby-Sawyer College. Dartmouth, which has 6,200 students, had 3.8 reported sex offenses per 1,000 students, University of New Hampshire had 2.5 reported sex offenses per 1,000, Colby-Sawyer had 1.4 per 1,000 and the University of Vermont had 1.2 per 1,000 students.
Holli Weed, a senior at Dartmouth who works in sexual violence prevention and is trained to talk to survivors of sexual assault, said that anyone who works in the field knows that the Clery numbers do not paint an accurate picture.
The one pattern Weed said she has seen at Dartmouth is that the more people the college has working to support victims, the higher the reported number of sex offenses. For instance, in 2012, Dartmouth added a second coordinator for the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program.
Dartmouth has taken other initiatives to deal with sexual assault, including moving all victim services into Robinson Hall, which is on the campus green. Previously, many of the programs were located near Dick’s House, which isn’t as central to campus.
Dartmouth also has created the Bystander Initiative, which is meant to train students to intervene when they see an unsafe situation.
Sex assaults have been a topic of conversation at Dartmouth in recent months. In May, students filed a federal complaint under the Clery Act alleging that the college underreports incidents of sexual assault, racism and homophobia on campus. And in July, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights began a compliance review of sexual harassment grievance procedures and potential violations of Title IX.
The Clery Report also contains statistics on alcohol and drug arrests. It shows an increase from 102 arrests or violations in 2011 to 135 arrests or violations in 2012. The trend, however, has been far fewer arrests, even as the number of overall citations has increased.
Anderson said the decrease in alcohol arrests is due to Hanover police offering more diversion programs to individuals charged with underage drinking.
Dartmouth had 23 drug arrests in 2010, 12 in 2011 and 16 in 2012. Drug violations were referred for disciplinary action 20 times in 2012, doubling the 2011 tally of 10.
During President Phil Hanlon’s inauguration last month, the new president said sexual violence and high-risk drinking on campus need to be addressed, although he did not provide concrete proposals.
Hanlon, a mathematician by training, is a numbers guy, Anderson said, and should be expected to choose programs that are evidence based and data driven.
“As the year unfolds,” Anderson said, “you’ll see more programs on both high-risk drinking and sexual assault that uses that approach.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3223.