SMU Insists It's Not Hiding Sexual Assault Statistics
Yesterday we linked to the Daily Campus story concerning the increase in sexual assaults on the SMU campus in 2006 -- and how school officials did nothing to notify students, parents and faculty members that 13 women had been raped on campus during the school year. Well, late yesterday we received the university's official response to the article, since we linked to it. The statement, which claims the story contained "a number of inaccuracies," is after the jump -- though it never comes out and specifically says what they are, only that the paper included at least one "single incident [that was] reported twice."
Yesterday, Kent Best in the university's Office of Public Affairs told Unfair Park that eight sexual assaults occurred on campus in 2006, not 13. SMU officials also take issue with the word "rape" being used to "define all 2006 sexual offenses." The full "clarification" follows. --Robert Wilonsky
Update: After finally getting a chance to look, for myself, at the university's Crime on Campus Report 2004-2006, I am going to have to agree with the Daily Campus' reporting. The report lists 13 "forcible sex offenses" in residential facilities for 2006, with five of them "reported to other campus officials" and not the university's police department.
SMU's RESPONSE TO THE DAILY CAMPUS
A number of inaccuracies were reported in The Daily Campus story "Invisible Victims," published April 24. The story¹s premise is based on the newspaper's flawed accounting and definition of SMU's crime statistics.
The story inaccurately used the word "rape" to define all 2006 sexual offenses, when the forcible sex offenses category, as defined by federal law, includes incidents other than forcible sexual intercourse. Additionally, the story combined two categories under federal reporting guidelines, producing an inaccurate number of reported incidents. SMU offers many places on campus where victims may report sexual assault in addition to the SMU Police Department. This may result in a single incident being reported twice. It should also be noted that even though a sexual assault may be reported to SMU, a victim may decide not to pursue any action through either the criminal justice system or the SMU judicial affairs office.
We understand the community's concern to receive specific details about campus crimes. Federal law, however, prohibits disclosure of many details surrounding a reported incident. When appropriate, SMU notifies the campus community of incidents by posting campus crime alerts. Such alerts often include information about crimes that have occurred both on campus and off campus in areas of interest and proximity to the SMU community.
SMU's crime statistics also are posted online at www.smu.edu/pd. There, students can find campus crime logs, including reports of sexual assault. A compilation of crime statistics is required by law and reported each October for the previous year. For instance, universities nationwide will not report statistics for 2007 until October 2008.
Since 2004, SMU has required all first-year students to attend a mandatory program on sexual assault. SMU Police offer self-defense courses for students. Additionally, staff from the Women¹s Center speak at all first-year Wellness classes about sexual assault.
A victim's choice to come forward is not easy. There are many decisions that must be made, including whether to press criminal charges or to pursue the school's judicial process. Whatever the decision, it is the victim's -- not the University's.
Sexual assault is a real and serious problem facing college campuses nationwide, and SMU takes seriously its role in helping victims cope with assault by providing counseling services, student judicial inquiries and criminal investigations.
These victims are not "invisible," as The Daily Campus story suggests. Each of these brave students has a face and a voice. To claim otherwise does a disservice to them and to all victims.
Anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault is urged to call SMU Police at 214-768-3333 or the Dean of Student Life at 214-768-4564.