University officials address sexual assault rate

Edinboro University
No increase in offenses this year

By Logan Lilly

Sexual assault and its ever-expanding ramifications remains a steady concern for campuses and universities across the country. Even at Edinboro University, the concern is ever present, and seemingly rising, both in the student body and administration. 

The fear of sexual assault on campus has grown to the point of being a main topic on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even new the social media site Yik Yak. But there’s one problem with all the fear of sexual assault here at Edinboro, according to Interim Police Chief Angela Vincent, as there has not been a high level of reports of the crime this past year.

“Any report of sexual assault is a problem that is taken seriously and investigated fully; but specifically, Edinboro University has not experienced a high volume reporting of this type of offense,” Vincent said.

More specifically, Vincent went on to state that as far as sexual assault goes, 2014 hasn’t been much different from any other year at Edinboro University.

“We have not seen an increase in the number of reported sexual offenses on campus in the past year,” Vincent said. “By law we are required to make available our annual security report. On Oct. 1, 2014 this report was posted on the university’s website for anyone to view. The annual security report lists the number of crimes reported for three calendar years. This specific report lists crimes for 2011, 2012 and 2013. Thus far our current number of sexual offenses is pretty consistent with previous years.”

The university police station has several programs in place to prevent crimes of this nature from occurring.

The police station has a certified instructor in Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.). R.A.D., which is a program that offers self-defense tactics and techniques, teaches female students how to avoid situations that could potentially involve sexual assaults and how to potentially defend themselves if the situation occurs.

The police station also offers a program called “Guy Talk,” which addresses how males perceive, relate to, and treat women in a college atmosphere.

Also, the police department, along with student affairs and the Title IX Coordinator, presents to students during new student orientation on sexual assaults on college campuses.

Additionally, outside of the police department, the health and wellness center has the wellness peer educators who provide programs to students on sexual violence awareness and prevention that covers what sexual violence is, the types of sexual violence, the definition of consent, bystander intervention, and campus and community resources.

Additionally Chief Vincent had some of her own advice to give to students on how to prevent sexual assaults on campus.

“Be diligent in their own safety. If at all possible use the buddy system (don’t walk alone at night); be aware of the many emergency phones located across campus; practice responsible drinking; trust your instincts, if it doesn’t feel right leave and get to a safe area; you have a right to say ‘no’ and mean it; guys – ‘no’ means ‘no’ not maybe; if you feel uncomfortable or fearful walking on campus at night call the police; we offer a safety escort service,” Vincent said.

The police station as well as the university Director of Communications Jeffrey Hileman believes this new found increased fear of sexual assault on campus could be a direct result from the same social media sites where some of these alleged stories were reported.

“Although social media can be a great tool in getting important information to the public, we have also found that it can have a negative effect in spreading rumors,” Vincent said. “In this particular instance I think that the use of Facebook, Twitter and Yik Yak has exaggerated the number of reported sexual assaults on campus. I am sure that the individuals who have posted these numbers may believe that they are reporting factual information, but the reality is that as the rumor circulates through social media the number of offenses will usually increase to a number that is not representative of the number of actual offenses.”

“Tweets, Yik Yak and other forms of social media likely result in an exaggeration of the actual number of reports,” Hileman said.

However, at the same time, Hileman expressed the importance of making sure there isn’t more going on that hasn’t been reported.

“If there is an unknown person who poses a serious threat to the safety of our campus community, we want to and also must make the campus aware of that so that everyone can watch out for their safety,” Hileman said. “We’re required to [inform students] in the form of all-campus messages, called timely warnings. Timely warnings are required if serious crimes are reported to campus security authorities (CSA) or local police agencies.”

Hileman also stressed the importance of using the safety escort service offered by the police station if a student feels threatened. The service can be utilized any day 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. by calling the campus police at (814) 732-2921.

If students have an aversion to reporting cases of sexual assault to the police station the university offers other service where students can report the crime.

CSAs are officials who have significant responsibilities for student life and activities that have designated them as CSAs by federal laws. CSAs can be anyone from athletic coaches to vice presidents to any advisor for student organizations or activities.

Additionally, confidential reports can be made to pastoral and professional counselors, such as those in counseling and psychological services.

For the time being, sexual assault at Edinboro University hasn’t been increasing. However, students should always stay vigilant and report anything that seems out of place or suspicious behavior.

Students who have questions about safety on campus, or have questions regarding the number of incidents that have been reported, can contact the university police. Crime logs are required to be complete and are available for public view during their normal business hours.

Logan Lilly is the editor-in-chief for The Spectator. He can be reached by (814) 732-2266