Brown, UConn rank first in this troubling campus statistic
WASHINGTON — Nearly 100 colleges and universities had at least 10 reports of rape on their main campuses in 2014, according to federal campus safety data, with Brown University and the University of Connecticut tied for the highest annual total — 43 each.
The data reflect what victim advocates say is a positive trend: Growing numbers of students who may have experienced a sexual assault are stepping forward to tell authorities about incidents that in years past might have gone unreported.
‘‘The fact that 43 incidents were reported indicates that we are building trust among our campus community members in how the university responds to reported incidents of sexual and gender-based violence,’’ Brown spokesman Brian E. Clark said.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the university ‘‘works very hard to cultivate a culture of forthrightness so this traditionally under-reported crime can be addressed and our students receive appropriate services and support.’’
Brown, in Providence, has about 9,200 students, and UConn, a public flagship, has about 26,500.
The data on campus rape reports, available through a US Department of Education website, provides valuable context as recent sexual assault cases have raised furors at Stanford and Baylor universities and on many other campuses.
Last week a former Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation for sexually assaulting a woman outside a fraternity party in 2015. The sentence, far more lenient than what prosecutors sought, provoked public outrage and drew fresh attention to an issue that in recent years has roiled campuses across the country.
At Stanford, there were 26 reports of rape in 2014. At Baylor, there were four.
Having a low number of rape reports is not necessarily a sign that all is well. Baylor’s governing board last month demoted the president, Kenneth Starr, and fired its football coach after an investigation that found the school had failed to respond effectively to reports of sexual assault involving football players and others.
‘‘Universities need to stop trying to treat this as a PR problem, and treat it as the civil rights and public safety issue that it is,’’ said Lisa Maatz, vice president for government relations at the American Association of University Women. ‘‘It’s happening on their campuses, undeniably. There’s no use putting their heads in the sand.’’
This year, students and parents for the first time can obtain precise data on the volume of rape reports on each campus because of recent changes to federal disclosure rules.
Previously, colleges were required to disclose under the federal Clery Act the number of reports of ‘‘forcible sex offenses,’’ which cover a variety of crimes including rape. Now rape reports are broken out as a separate statistic.
It is important to note that the totals reflect only reports of rape, not the number of rape cases prosecuted through criminal courts or adjudicated through internal student disciplinary proceedings. Experts say rape and other forms of sexual assault are generally under-reported.
The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation published in June 2015 a national poll that found one in five women who attended a residential college during a four-year span said they had been sexually assaulted. Those findings have been reinforced by surveys at several prominent research universities.
Another way of looking at the data is to analyze rape report totals in the context of the size of enrollment. The Post analysis found Reed College in Oregon had the highest total of reports of rape on their main campuses per 1,000 students, with 12.9.
Kevin Myers, a spokesman for Reed, said the liberal arts college in Oregon, which has about 1,400 students, has focused in recent years on ensuring that students know they can report incidents of sexual violence.