SALT LAKE CITY ― Sexual assaults reported at the campuses of Utah’s largest colleges in 2015 are about the same as the year before at 58 and still unlikely to accurately represent how many assaults actually occur.
Underreporting and a lack of off-campus assault data are factors that some say misrepresent the actual number of assaults, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Estimates from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center say 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. The U.S. Department of Justice in a 2014 report said 80 percent of female college students who were raped or sexually assaulted between 1995 and 2013 did not report the crimes to police.
Federal investigators are looking at how sexual assault complaints are handled at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Westminster College.
University of Utah spokeswoman Maria O’Mara attributed the school’s uptick in sexual assault data to students feeling empowered to report these crimes.
Dove Center victim advocate Elizabeth Bluhm said the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report and distribute data on campus crimes, should be strengthened to require schools receiving federal funding to disclose all student sexual assaults. “Any time a student is assaulted, the law should require law enforcement agencies to reach out to schools to let them know,” she said.
The law currently covers crimes on campuses, the immediate surrounding areas and university-controlled facilities like fraternities and sororities.
Bluhm pointed to Dixie State University, where no sexual assaults were reported in 2015 and most students live off-campus.
“No one is jumping out from behind the bushes to assault people (on campus),” she said. “These assaults are happening at parties off campus and out in the community.”
Salt Lake Community College reported a case of fondling in 2015. “Almost all the space the students move in is public,” spokesman Joy Thlou said.
“When students are done with school, they disappear into the general population, so in the instance that something happens, it usually happens” off campus, he said.