Sexual assaults on college campuses are on the rise, as universities with more than 15,000 students have reported 7 percent more cases in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the United States Department of Education.
However, the total number of cases that go unreported are believed to be far greater, said Claire Kaplan, director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services at University of Virginia. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 54 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
The University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, Va., has a similar layout to State College, with a campus supported by a small college town, Kaplan said.
“We see a spike in reporting of sexual assaults when there is a controversial issue on campus,” Kaplan said. “A lot of times you have victims telling their friends, and they are the ones to convince the victims to receive help.”
Kaplan’s statement can be compared to the Penn State Clery Act statistics, which show that in 2011, there were 40 reported sex offenses in both on-and-off campus locations compared to nine in 2010 and 16 in 2009.
The reported sexual assaults and rape over the years have been as high as 58 and low as 13, according to statistics provided by the U.Va. Women’s Center.
U.Va. has a contract with the local sexual assault center that works with the university as a mutual support team, Kaplan said.
“They receive some funding from the university, and if a student doesn’t feel comfortable about seeing someone on campus, they can go there,” she said.
In Centre County, Liz Fallon from the Centre County Women’s Resource Center said the organization works closely with the Penn State Office of Student Conduct to help students who are in need of assistance.
To effectively address the issue, U.Vaa tries to make the issue of sexual assault more visible on campus by having survivor support system members post the group’s sticker on doors, Kaplan said.
“You obviously wont have someone walk into an office of a faculty or adviser to talk about a sexual assault, but it makes the issue more visible to the students,” she said.
The University of Maryland has advocacy programs run by master’s students who carry out various prevention and educational events, said Stephanie Rivero, assistant coordinator at Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program of UMD..
“Like most other large universities, we also have the problem of sexual violence not being reported,” Rivero said.
She said one of SARPP’s programs is to visit the fraternities and sororities on campus, which are required to receive one or two presentations a year.
The University of Iowa has a similar program where advocacy groups work directly with fraternity men, said Linda Kroon, director of Women’s Resource and Action Center.
“Frats have been recognized by the United States Justice Department as a priority area,” Kroon said. “To address the issue effectively, we need to work with both genders, and I think its time for men to step up.”
Kaplan, Rivero and Kroon stressed the importance of having a rounded approach by providing proper education about these issues and also encouraging people to speak out if they are affected by sexual assault.