2015 marked as year with most sexual assaults reported at Penn State since 2012

Total sexual assaults reported

2015 saw the most sexual assaults reported at Penn State since 2012, following the breaking of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

There were 62 forcible sex offenses reported to the university in 2015, just one less than the number of reported sexual offenses in 2012. However, in 2013 there was a steep drop to only 28 reports, though 2014 saw in increase in reports to 42.

When asked why there seemed to be an increase in the number of reports, Penn State Spokesperson Lisa Powers said it is difficult to see the number of reports rise, but attributed it to increased awareness among the community, better reporting, data collection processes and the Title IX office.

More sexual assaults being reported does not necessarily mean that more sexual assaults are occurring.

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, only 20 percent of female victims of sexual violence between the ages of 18 and 24 make reports to law enforcement.

In 2015 forcible sex offenses, which include rape, fondling, statutory rape and incest, accounted for 24 Timely Warnings, however there were 62 forcible sex offenses reported to the university.

The majority of Timely Warnings regard forcible sex offenses. Of the 26 Timely Warnings sent out in 2015 only two of them did not regard sexual assault: one of the warnings regarded a reported stalking and the other regarded a burglary.

However, there were 46 burglaries and 21 stalkings reported to the university in 2015.

There were 26 aggravated assaults reported in 2015 to the university, however there were no Timely Warnings for aggravated assaults that year.

Additionally, there was one reported larceny hate crime, three simple assault hate crimes and four intimidation hate crimes, but Timely Warnings were not sent out for any of them.

There are various reasons why a Timely Warning may not be sent out for Clery Act Crimes, crimes that are mandated to be reported by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

If there is not enough information regarding the crime, a report may not be sent out. Timely warnings are only sent by the university, so if a crime is not reported to the university a Timely Warning can’t be sent out.

According to the university, much of the data in the Policies, Safety & You, Penn State’s annual security and fire safety report, comes in as aggregate data for statistical purposes only at the end of the year. This means that the university may not have known about these crimes until they received the data.

However, of the Clery Crimes in 2015, 35 of the 46 reported burglaries occurred on campus, nine reported aggravated assaults that occurred on campus, 19 out of 21 stalkings occurred on campus and of the eight reported hate crimes all but two occurred on campus.

This does not necessarily mean that all these crimes would have been reported to the Penn State Police, however it does mean these crimes occurred within their jurisdiction.

Whether a Timely Warning will be sent out or not also depends on if the university believes that a crime is no longer a threat worth warning the community of, such as if the perpetrator has already been taken into custody or too much time has elapsed since the occurrence of the crime.

2016 has seen a surge of Timely Warnings, though, especially this fall.

As of Nov. 10, there have already been 22 Timely Warnings for the fall 2016 semester. For 2016 overall there have been 38 Timely Warnings, so far.

Comparatively there were nine Timely Warnings for the fall 2015 semester and 26 Timely Warnings total for 2015.

Some within the Penn State community are not happy with how Timely Warnings are being delivered though.

A survey conducted over the summer by the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the Office of Emergency Management regarding Penn State’s emergency alert system asked respondents various questions about how alerts are delivered to the community.

Pamela Soule, Penn State’s emergency management planner, said the survey seemed to show that most of the 6,000 respondents did not want to receive Timely Warnings by text.

Soule said that most respondents were fine receiving Timely Warnings by email though.

“What we’re thinking is they only want texts for things they can take immediate action for,” Soule said. “So they didn’t want alerts on things like burglaries by text either because for a burglary that has already happened there was no immediate action that they can take.”

However, Soule said the survey will not result in any policy changes. Soule said a majority of the respondents were faculty, which is not representational of the university community. She also said that there were flaws in the wording of the survey.

Soule said this survey was primarily to test the waters for an improved survey that will be conducted in the spring 2017 semester, when she said she hopes she will be able to reach more students.

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Leif Greiss is a features reporter for The Daily Collegian. Follow him on Twitter at @Leif_Greiss or email him at lng@psu.edu