Reported rapes at the UConn went from 18 in the 2013-14 academic year to 43 in 2014-15, according to the previous crime and safety Clery Act report.
A new, more detailed report has last year’s number of 43 reported rapes at 85 instead. This is because the modified state report consists of reported rapes that occurred prior to 2014-15 but were not conveyed until 2014-15, as well as rapes that occurred off campus.
While media outlets, including The Daily Campus, have “been focused on the numbers and the sanctions,” according to Lauren Donais, the Violence Against Women Prevention Program (VAWPP) coordinator, she said their focus is “on the primary prevention, and all of that is really reflected in the last part of the report.”
The report Donais is referring to is the state mandated “Report Pursuant to Connecticut General Statues Section 10a-55m,” which requires all Connecticut institutions of higher education to conduct an internal account of sexual violence. This came into law in 2013, right around the time UConn was in the national news for its officials’ alleged mishandling of sexual assault complaints and the subsequent $1.3 million settlement with the complainants.
The law stipulates that the university release numbers on sexual violence, including intimate partner violence and stalking. It also states that the university detail its policies regarding sexual violence and its response and prevention programs.
“I think the university is trying to be as transparent as possible around these issues,” Donais said.
The numbers in this year’s report include 85 incidents of rape reported and 24 instances in which the victim chose not to participate in the university process, 18 incidents of stalking and 8 instances in which the victim chose not to participate in the university process, 28 incidents of intimate partner violence and four instances of the victim choosing not to participate in the university process.
The state report includes a number of aspects the Clery Act report did not. For example, there are definitions of the language of sexual violence, like consent. There is a description of the conduct rules and regulations in place and the process of bringing and seeing through complaints. The state report also explains the sanctioning process and what sexual misconduct can consist of. Finally, there are guidelines for university officials regarding how to deal with sexual assault, and a listing of the 251 programs introduced to take on sexual violence since 2014, of which Donais is particularly proud.
“I think the university has demonstrated a commitment to prevention through, you know, the reports, but also the over 250 programs out of ODE, the Women’s Center, and other avenues,” Donais said. “This was the first year VAWPP was moved into FYE (First Year Experience) classes, prior to that we were facilitating a similar workshop in orientation. This year was also the first year where the Wellness and Prevention office and the Dean of Students office teamed up to do that project in orientation – already our first-year students are getting more in their first year than ever before.”
This FYE workshop, called “Consent 201,” is about better understanding the university’s definition of consent and how it applies to everyday lives. Donais said that the program takes the sex out of consent and asks students to think critically around communication patterns, pressure, coercion, and guilt tripping.
VAWPP is planning to implement a program that would require rising juniors to take an online course, like AlcoholEdu, in sexual violence. The goal is for VAWPP to continue with the groundwork laid in orientation, but also to gain access to upper division students who haven’t been exposed to sexual violence education for a while. A community resource team of students, faculty, and staff of which Donais is a co-chair, is also in place that meets once-a-month to discuss how to combat rape and rape culture on campus.
UConn’s Title IX coordinator since 2011, Elizabeth Conklin, did her best to show the positives of the recent reports.
“Sexual violence is the most underreported crime on earth,” Conklin wrote in an email. “As there has been a tremendous rise in awareness on college campuses nationwide about sexual violence, we have seen a corresponding and significant increase in reporting. This has been true at colleges and universities nationwide, and also true here at UConn. This is a positive development, because reporting allows victims to receive important resources and support, participate in investigations, and hold perpetrators accountable, protecting the safety of the entire campus community.”
When asked if Donais found that the Women’s Center or VAWPP were ever at odds with the university administration, Donais praised increased administrative involvement in the issue of sexual violence.
“I think the administration is doing a lot to sort of break down silos where they might have existed before, because I think, while we (VAWPP) have been doing this work forever, there are a lot more offices that are now invested in this work, and quite honestly, there needs to be, because we know it’s not enough,” Donais said. “We’re not going to see a cultural shift, we’re not going to see a decrease in numbers, in terms of the crimes that are being committed, unless we have institutional buy-in, unless everyone understands and realizes their stake in this.”
An independent study conducted by NPR shows that reported rapes on campus increased nationwide from 2,530 in 2004 to 3,621 in 2012.