UConn, UConn Police criticized for handling of sexual assault cases

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Several students and victims of sexual assault at the University of Connecticut have come forward to share their experiences with the UConn Police Department as well as the university’s administration for their handling of sexual assault cases on campus. Citing insensitivity among officers, and a lack of trust for the police unit, some victims have shared the sentiment that UConn does not facilitate a safe space for victims of sexual assault. 

“I never reported to the UCPD because cops have never made me feel safe and I understood the possibility of justice being served through them was slim,” said one victim who wished to be identified as R. 

An $18 million budget allocation for the UCPD for the upcoming fiscal year provoked backlash from students on social media, after several accounts were created, allowing students to share their stories of sexual violence on campus. The account @UConn_Survivors, which has since stopped posting following warnings from the university administration of possible litigation, amassed over 1.5K followers, and saw at least 10 reports from survivors, before announcing a temporary halt on posts. 

“With all those anonymous sexual assault pages posting stories involving those who did go to [UCPD] and received no sort of help confirmed my suspicion,” said R. 

A report by the campus’ Division of Public Safety released last fall, revealed that 63 cases of sexual assault were reported on the Storrs campus between 2016 and 2018, with one arrest over the same period for sexual assault in the 4th degree. 

“Those numbers are clearly falsified, I personally have heard the stories from other victims like myself and I hate to say that someone is lying, and it’s not the victims,” said one fifth-semester student who requested to be identified as Cindy.

“Unfortunately, we know that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in the United States and our community is no exception,” UCPD Deputy Chief Magdalena Silver said. “We encourage the reporting of sexual assaults. We provide avenues for anonymous reporting. The department also has a well-trained Special Victim Unit, which handles sexual assault cases with a victim-centered approach.” 

The Daily Campus could not independently verify whether the 63 reported cases of sexual assault on the Storrs Campus listed in the safety and security report were accurate, but Deputy Chief Silver blames apprehension from victims when it comes to reporting. 

“We understand that despite these efforts, victims are often hesitant to speak with the police, which leads to under reported crimes.” she said. 

Having a low number of sexual assault is not an indication that all is well, and with the Clercy Report indicating that UConn received fewer reports for sexual assault in 2017 than the previous year, some are questioning the legitimacy of the figures. 

“I believe there are far more cases that aren’t taken seriously by the UCPD, and are thus not counted or investigated properly,” said Shaun Simoneau, a seventh-semester political science major.

In a 2016 report by the Washington Post, UConn ranked first nationwide in a national report about campus rapes. The report, which analyzed data of rape incidents on main campuses in 2014, found UConn and Brown University tied for the most reported cases in the country, with 43 cases each. In the same year, UConn officials released the results of a survey designed to measure the problem of sexual violence on its campuses, and concluded that it showed their students feel safe. 

“Over this past week, I’ve had over six victims of sexual assault [at UConn] come forward with their stories, and one thing is common with all of them, UConn Police didn’t take them seriously and assumed they weren’t worth investigating because of their intoxication,” Simoneau said. 

The Daily Campus found UConn named in at least 5 media reports on sexual assault, ranging from lawsuit settlements, to its own enforcement of sexual misconduct being put in question, which some argue is part of a bigger problem at the university. In 2014, UConn was among a list of state universities at the center of a federal investigation by the Department of Education. 

“Rape culture is a part of UConn, and if I had known how deep set it was on our campus, especially in comparison to some of the other campuses, I would never have gone to UConn,” said Mary Monticello, a third-semester political science major. “The campus can alleviate this problem by seriously punishing rapists. Suspend and expel them. Make it easier for students to come forward.” 

The CT Mirror reported in 2016 that 1 in 10 female students at the university’s Storrs campus had been sexually assaulted since enrolling. The report reinforced the findings of a 2015 Washington Post- Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, revealing that 1 in 5 college women said they were sexually assaulted in the previous four years. 

“I’m heavily inclined to believe that this is part of a larger problem,” said seventh-semester manufacturing for engineering major Gleimy Rodriguez. “Just thinking about the number of victims speaking out in the recent movement online, the number 5 is extremely low. The number of reports being so low is attributed not only to victims not feeling confident that they will be supported and believed, but also due to the history of unaccountability that we see in cases that do come to light.” 

This is a developing story. 


Nicholas Martin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.r.martin@uconn.edu.

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