November 15, 2018

Public Safety report shows increase in reported rapes

The Webster University Department of Public Safety’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report contained four reported rapes from 2016 through 2017. This is an increased number from 2012 through 2015, when two rapes were reported.

Concerning the public safety report, The Journal reached out for interviews from Webster’s Head of Public Safety, the university’s Title IX coordinator and the Dean of Students. Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin denied the request for all three interviews.

At least one of the reported rapes was a delayed report, according to Giblin. This means the alleged victim claimed the incident occured before 2016 or 2017 and did not report it until then.

Rape, as defined in the 2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Under regulations prior to 2014, reports of sexual assault with an object and forcible sodomy were listed separately from the number of reported rapes. As reports of these incidents are now included in the new definition, one more reported rape would be listed today, as an incident of non-consensual sodomy was recorded in 2012.

Statistics in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report are based solely on alleged criminal offenses. It does not matter if the case has been investigated or whether the alleged perpetrator has been found guilty.

The statistics also reflect when the alleged victim reported the offense, not necessarily when the offense allegedly occurred.

This graph depicts the number of reported rapes on Webster’s campus over the past six years. Graph by Matt Woods

In a letter response to The Journal, Webster’s administration said these reports do not signify an uptrend in crime.

“It means we are seeing a more accurate accounting of these reports and now have more information to make the campus safer,” the administration said in the letter.

Lt. Andy Miller, Public Information Officer for the Webster Groves Police Department, said the department  has not dealt with any rape cases involving Webster University students from 2015 through 2017.

There were no incidents of rape reported to the police department that involved Webster University students that I could locate in our report system,” Miller said.

According to Miller, the alleged victim has the responsibility of reporting a criminal offense to the police, not public safety or the university’s Title IX coordinator. This does not mean public safety or the Title IX coordinator may not assist in reporting to the police, only that they do not have control over it.

Carla Hickman, Fontbonne University’s Title IX Coordinator, said she receives cases, including alleged rape incidents, from public safety or the police. Then, she said, it is up to the student on how to continue.

“The student can ask for an investigation or not ask for an investigation,” Hickman said.

The geographical boundaries for what is contained in the report include on-campus buildings or property owned by the university, public property within or immediately adjacent to the campus and any building or property in direct relation to the university frequently used by students.

Webster’s administration outlined in its letter what actions the university plans to take to ensure the safety of students and faculty.

Some of the actions listed include the creation and launch of a web-based reporting system, development of interactive workshops and individualized training for key campus officials.

The university has a messaging system currently in place to notify students of possible danger. Public safety has a “safe walk” program to provide escorts to students, faculty and staff if needed.

In its letter, the administration welcomed an increase in reportings of alleged incidents.

“It demonstrates that people have more faith in the reporting system and the report they receive when they come forward,” the letter said.

Students and faculty can report incidents to Webster’s Department of Public Safety. The Office of Public Safety is located at 572 Garden Ave. on Webster’s main campus.

 

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