Sex offenses on campus rise from 2020 numbers, still below 2019 high

Oct. 17, 2022, 10:19 p.m.

Reports of on-campus sex offenses rose from 32 incidents reported in 2020 to 44 incidents reported during 2021 — a slight increase that followed a decline in reports from 62 in 2019, according to the University’s annual Safety, Security and Fire report.

A University spokesperson attributed the decline from 2019 to 2021 to the efforts of University groups and the slight increase from 2020 due to the lack of students on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, though advocates warned that the numbers may not accurately capture the prevalence of sexual violence on campus.

The report, which was released in late September, was bracketed by two AlertSU reports informing students of separate rape reports on campus. The reports have led to rising campus alarm and calls from students for the University to take action against sexual violence, including a 200-person protest on Friday and the Undergraduate Senate unanimously passing a resolution calling for action on the subject.

The Safety, Security and Fire report contains the most recent information on campus safety policies, emergency procedures, campus crime and fire statistics from 2019-2021. The report also includes updated details on the University’s various procedures for addressing prohibited sexual conduct, which includes sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

Referring to the trends in reports of rape and stalking throughout the three-year span, University spokesperson Luisa Rapport wrote that “reports that declined during 2020, then rose again during 2021 are reflective of the impact the COVID pandemic had on the on-campus population and the social activities that took place.” 

Bill Larson, a spokesperson for the Stanford University Department of Public Safety, pointed The Daily to Rapport’s statement.

The report details crime statistics between the 2019-2021 calendar years that fall under the “VAWA Crimes” category, which refers to the federal Violence Against Women Act originally passed in 1994.

In 2019, there were a total of 62 sex offenses reported on campus, including in student residences, according to the report. 

Rapport wrote that the “statistically fewer” number of reports of VAWA crimes in 2021 compared to 2019 may be attributed to “extensive cooperative efforts of University groups.” 

Dating violence, domestic violence and stalking are reported separately from the sex offense data in the report. 

In 2019, there were 67 reports of domestic violence on campus, including in student residences, though the report specifies that “multiple cases involving long-term, abusive relationships account for over 40 of the incidents counted under domestic violence” during that year. 

There were eight and 13 reports of on-campus domestic violence in 2020 and 2021, respectively. There were no reports of dating violence in any of the years, though the report notes that incidents satisfying the definitions of both domestic and dating violence are only classified as domestic. There were 41 reports of on-campus stalking in 2019, 26 in 2020 and 29 in 2021.

Law professor Michele Dauber, an advocate against sexual violence on campus, wrote that she believes “COVID shutdowns and restrictions fully explain this pattern,” referring to the decline in sex offense reports from 2019 to 2020 and the increase from 2020 to 2021. Most students left campus in spring 2020 and did not return until fall 2021.

Dauber also noted that the numbers included in the report may not be fully representative of sexual violence rates at the University. 

“Anonymous climate surveys in 2015 and 2019 show that around 40% of female undergraduate students experience sexual violence, yet these data show that the vast majority of these attacks are not being reported to campus authorities,” she wrote. 

The University also shared updates on campus security procedures following an on-campus rape report on Oct. 7. According to an Oct. 10 campus-wide email from Patrick Dunkley, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access & Community and Laura Wilson, Director of the Department of Public Safety, security presence on campus will increase “while the investigation of this newest incident continues.” 

Rapport wrote that the University plans to continue implementing education and training sessions and public data reports related to the issue of sexual violence. 

“We will regularly reassess and refine our efforts in preventing sexual and relationship violence, and in ensuring that the university is a safe place for every member of our campus community,” she wrote.

Lexi Kupor is a writer for The Daily. Contact her at news "at" stanforddaily.com.

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